Your heart is a pump.
It pumps out fresh blood through your arteries to your organs, muscles, and tissues. Veins bring the used blood back to your heart, creating constant circulation. Every second or so, your heart muscle flexes and relaxes to squeeze blood out and then refill with blood again.
If, for example, your arteries become clogged with plaque (which is usually related to high cholesterol), blood flow becomes reduced or blocked. This reduced blood flow means that your heart has to work harder to pump enough blood to the rest of your body.
Over time, this extra work can tire out your heart muscle and make it unable to pump blood as well as it should. This condition is called heart failure.
Symptoms of Heart Failure
Your muscles and organs need constant oxygen-rich blood to work properly. When your heart muscle cannot pump blood as well as it should, these organs and muscles will start to weaken or malfunction.
People with heart failure will feel this in the form of fatigue and shortness of breath—the two most common symptoms. Breathing troubles may be worsened when lying down or bending over, as these positions can lead to fluid buildup in the lungs.
Other symptoms include:
- coughing (often with mucus or blood), due to fluid buildup in the lungs
- muscle weakness due to a lack of blood flow to the muscles
- weight gain or swelling in the legs, feet, and ankles due to kidney problems
- rapid or irregular heartbeat due to the heart trying to make up for its pumping problem
- nausea or loss of appetite due to reduced blood flow to the digestive tract
- confusion or memory problems due to sodium buildup in the blood
- dizziness due to reduced or changing blood flow to the brain
If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, call 911 or emergency services immediately. Heart failure is a serious condition and, if left untreated, can be fatal.
Being aware of the symptoms and knowing when to seek medical help can save a life.
Reducing Your Risk For Developing Heart Failure
- maintain a healthy weight
- be physically active
- eat a healthy diet
- quit smoking
- reduce your stress levels
- monitor and manage high blood pressure
- monitor and manage high cholesterol
Get regular checkups and talk to your doctor about your risk for heart disease. Ask them what you can do to keep your heart healthy and reduce your risk of developing heart failure. Let them know as soon as possible if you are experiencing any symptoms, as early detection can significantly improve your chances of avoiding serious complications and achieving a successful recovery.