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Heart Failure: Causes & Precautions

Author: Hanni Yang

Editors:Aanya Ram and Shirley Chen

Artist: Serena Zhou

Heart failure is a chronic condition where the heart can’t pump enough blood for the cells in the body. Every pump of blood from the heart contains oxygen and rich nutrients; if the heart is too weak to do so, it will result in fatigue and shortness of breath. There are multiple regions where heart failure can happen, for example, left-sided heart failure, right-sided heart failure, and congestive heart failure.

Left-sided heart failure can be separated into two types: systolic failure and diastolic failure. Both of these failures are related to the left ventricle; however, systolic failure, also known as heart failure with reduced ejection or HFrEF, focuses more on the inability to contract normally, where the heart pumps less than or equal to 40% ejection fraction. In comparison, diastolic failure, also known as heart failure with preserved ejection or HRpEF, aims towards the inability to relax, usually because the muscles become stiff and the heart can’t appropriately fill with blood. This type of failure resulted in the left ventricle pumping between 41% and 49% ejection fraction.

The most common cause of right-sided heart failure is left-sided failure. When the left ventricle fails to pump enough blood, the volume of fluid transferred back to the lungs increases.

Congestive heart failure, sometimes called CHF, requires medical attention. As blood flow slows down, blood returns to the heart through veins back up, which causes congestion in the body’s tissue and edema. The swelling often happens in the legs and ankles but can also occur in other body parts. Heart failure also affects the kidneys by preventing the disposal of sodium and water, which results in more blood volume and can increase swelling in the body’s tissues. Sometimes, fluid could be collected during the process, which interferes with breathing causing shortness of breath, known as pulmonary edema. Pulmonary edema can also cause respiratory distress if it’s left untreated.


Heart failure can be diagnosed through blood tests, electrocardiograms, echocardiograms, and stress tests. Treatments could include medication such as diuretics, ACE inhibitors, or beta blocks. Lifestyle changes, such as lowering sodium intake, participating in regular physical activities, and managing stress, are all definitive ways to reduce the chances of heart failure.

Medication for heart failure slows down the heart rate, relaxes blood vessels, and removes extra sodium and fluid. In addition, some procedures and surgeries can help, for example, a biventricular pacemaker that can help both sides of the heart contract and relieve the symptoms, a mechanical heart pump, a ventricular assist device, or a total artificial heart that can be used for short-term and long-term periods. Procedures that can also be used are implantable cardioverter defibrillators that check the heart rate and use an electrical impulse to correct the irregular heart rhythms which can cause a sudden cardiac arrest.

 

Citation:

“Heart Failure Tools and Resources.” Www.Heart.Org, 12 July 2023,

www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-failure/heart-failure-tools-resources.

“Treatment.” National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/heart-

failure/treatment. Accessed 14 July 2023.

“Types of Heart Failure.” Www.Heart.Org, 16 May 2023,

www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-failure/what-is-heart-failure/types-of-heart-

failure.

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