Heart failure, also known as congestive heart failure, occurs when heart muscle doesn't pump blood as well as it should. Certain conditions, such as narrowed arteries in heart (coronary artery disease) or high blood pressure, gradually leave heart too weak or stiff to fill and pump efficiently.
Not all conditions that lead to heart failure can be reversed, but treatments can improve the signs and symptoms of heart failure and help to live longer. Lifestyle changes, such as exercising, reducing sodium in diet, managing stress and losing weight can improve quality of life.
Heart failure can be ongoing (chronic), or condition may start suddenly (acute).
Heart failure signs and symptoms may include:
Heart failure often develops after other conditions have damaged or weakened your heart. However, the heart doesn't need to be weakened to cause heart failure. It can also occur if the heart becomes too stiff.
In heart failure, the main pumping chambers of the heart (the ventricles) may become stiff and not fill properly between beats. In some cases of heart failure, heart muscle may become damaged and weakened, and the ventricles stretch (dilate) to the point that the heart can't pump blood efficiently throughout the body.
Over time, the heart can no longer keep up with the normal demands placed on it to pump blood to the rest of the body.
An ejection fraction is an important measurement of how well heart is pumping and is used to help classify heart failure and guide treatment. In a healthy heart, the ejection fraction is 50 percent or higher — meaning that more than half of the blood that fills the ventricle is pumped out with each beat.
But heart failure can occur even with a normal ejection fraction. This happens if the heart muscle becomes stiff from conditions such as high blood pressure.
Heart failure can involve the left side (left ventricle), right side (right ventricle) or both sides of your heart. Generally, heart failure begins with the left side, specifically the left ventricle — your heart's main pumping chamber.
Any of the following conditions can damage or weaken heart and can cause heart failure.
Coronary artery disease and heart attack. Coronary artery disease is the most common form of heart disease and the most common cause of heart failure. The disease results from the buildup of fatty deposits (plaque) in your arteries, which reduce blood flow and can lead to heart attack.
High blood pressure (hypertension). If your blood pressure is high, your heart has to work harder than it should to circulate blood throughout your body. Over time, this extra exertion can make your heart muscle too stiff or too weak to effectively pump blood.
Faulty heart valves. The valves of your heart keep blood flowing in the proper direction through the heart. A damaged valve — due to a heart defect, coronary artery disease or heart infection —
Damage to the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy). Heart muscle damage (cardiomyopathy) can have many causes, including several diseases, infections, alcohol abuse and the toxic effect of drugs, such as cocaine or some drugs used for chemotherapy. Genetic factors also can play a role.
Myocarditis. Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle. It's most commonly caused by a virus, including COVID-19, and can lead to left-sided heart failure.
Heart defects you're born with (congenital heart defects). If your heart and its chambers or valves haven't formed correctly, the healthy parts of your heart have to work harder to pump blood through your heart, which, in turn, may lead to heart failure.
Abnormal heart rhythms (heart arrhythmias). Abnormal heart rhythms may cause your heart to beat too fast, creating extra work for your heart. A slow heartbeat also may lead to heart failure.
Other diseases. Chronic diseases — such as diabetes, HIV, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, or a buildup of iron (hemochromatosis) or protein (amyloidosis) — also may contribute to heart failure.
Causes of acute heart failure include viruses that attack the heart muscle, severe infections, allergic reactions, blood clots in the lungs, the use of certain medications or any illness that affects the whole body.
A single risk factor may be enough to cause heart failure, but a combination of factors also increases risk.
Risk factors include:
High blood pressure. heart works harder than it has to if blood pressure is high.
Coronary artery disease. Narrowed arteries may limit heart's supply of oxygen-rich blood, resulting in weakened heart muscle.
Heart attack. A heart attack is a form of coronary disease that occurs suddenly. Damage to heart muscle from a heart attack may mean heart can no longer pump as well as it should.
Diabetes. Having diabetes increases risk of high blood pressure and coronary artery disease.
Some diabetes medications. The diabetes drugs rosiglitazone (Avandia) and pioglitazone (Actos) have been found to increase the risk of heart failure in some people.
Sleep apnea. The inability to breathe properly while you sleep at night results in low blood oxygen levels and increased risk of abnormal heart rhythms. Both of these problems can weaken the heart.
Congenital heart defects. Some people who develop heart failure were born with structural heart defects.
Valvular heart disease. People with valvular heart disease have a higher risk of heart failure.
Viruses. A viral infection may have damaged heart muscle.
Alcohol use. Drinking too much alcohol can weaken heart muscle and lead to heart failure.
Tobacco use. Using tobacco can increase risk of heart failure.
Obesity. People who are obese have a higher risk of developing heart failure.
Irregular heartbeats. These abnormal rhythms, especially if they are very frequent and fast, can weaken the heart muscle and cause heart failure.
Some people's symptoms and heart function will improve with proper treatment. However, heart failure can be life-threatening. People with heart failure may have severe symptoms, and some may require heart transplantation or support with a ventricular assist device.
The key to preventing heart failure is to reduce risk factors. Control or eliminate many of the risk factors for heart disease — high blood pressure and coronary artery disease, for example — by making lifestyle changes along with the help of any needed medications.
Lifestyle changes you can make to help prevent heart failure include:
Homeopathy can play a significant role in the management of these disorders. Homeopathic remedies are known to be effective in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases, either as a curative or as a preventive prescription.