Prevea Health

What is heart failure?


For most people, heart failure is a chronic disease that they will have throughout their life. There are many causes of heart failure such as coronary artery disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, valve disease, and cardiomyopathy. Routine follow up with your primary care provider, taking medications as prescribed, and lifestyle modification are keys to living with heart failure.

So, what happens during heart failure?
A damaged or weak heart pumps less blood. To make up for this reduction in blood flow, the heart stretches to accommodate more blood in its chambers, making the heart muscle weak. Fluid may back up in the lungs, which causes shortness of breath. The brain may receive less oxygen-rich blood, causing dizziness. The kidneys may also receive less blood, causing them to work less effectively. Excess fluid may settle in the legs, ankles, and feet.

Common symptoms of Heart Failure
You may experience many of these symptoms or just a few:
  • Coughing
  • Swollen legs, ankles, and feet
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Shortness of breath when lying down
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Rapid weight gain
  • Racing or skipping heart
Heart failure in the United States
  • About 5.7 million adults in the United States have heart failure.
  • One in 9 deaths in 2009 included heart failure as contributing cause.
  • About half of people who develop heart failure die within 5 years of diagnosis.
  • Heart failure costs the nation an estimated $30.7 billion each year.3 This total includes the cost of health care services, medications to treat heart failure, and missed days of work.

For more information on heart failure statistics, visit the

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