Heart Failure

Heart failure occurs when the heart is no longer able to pump blood properly around the body. This is usually the result of the heart becoming weak.

Heart failure does not mean that the heart has stopped beating and it does not mean that the heart is about to stop beating. It is a condition that develops gradually and makes the heart ineffective in its function.

Heart failure is a progressive condition that has no cure but can be controlled.

The heart

The heart is a pump which supplies blood to the rest of the body through the blood vessels (arteries and veins), which are the pipes. The pipes, mainly the veins also return the blood to the heart to be mixed with nutrients and oxygen and pumped back around the body.

In order to have an effective supply of blood around the body, the pump and the pipes need to be in good condition. 

What are the symptoms of heart failure?

The following are common symptoms experienced in heart failure.

  • Having difficulty breathing, feeling breathless or tight-chested
  • Getting tired easily
  • Swollen legs 

Other symptoms including 

  • Persistent cough
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of appetite, getting easily satisfied when eating

What are the causes of heart failure?

Heart failure can be caused by conditions which affect the heart (the pump) or the blood vessels (the pipes).

The following are common causes.

  • High blood pressure (Hypertension)
  • Angina
  • Heart attack
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Conditions that affect the heart muscle 
  • Anaemia (low blood count)

What tests are available to diagnose heart failure?

If you have any of the symptoms, see your doctor who will examine you and may request tests including blood tests, a scan of the heart (echocardiogram), tracing of the heart (ECG) and Chest X-ray.

What is the treatment for heart failure?

Heart failure, unfortunately, has no cure but it could be controlled by a number of measures including.

  • Lifestyle changes. Quit smoking, alcohol reduction, weight loss.
  • Control other underlying medical conditions such as high blood pressure.
  • Medication. There are different medications which can help reduce the work the heart has to do and relieve the symptoms of heart failure.