Your source for up-to-date information on Heart Failure, it's causes, treatments, and latest news

Common Heart Failure Terms:

Chest pain or pressure, usually because of blockages in the heart, but sometimes also caused by a large or weak heart.

Also called a cardiac catheterization, this invasive procedure requires a cardiologist to insert a small IV into an artery (usually in the groin) to take pictures of the heart and see if there are any blockages.

Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitor (ACE)
A medicine that alters a negative hormone and opens the arteries, thereby helping the heart pump more efficiently.

When the heart has extra beats or beats in a way that is not its regular rhythmic pattern.

Atrial Fibrillation
An arrhythmia of the heart where the top chambers quiver or “fibrillate” (do not pump effectively) while the bottom chambers (ventricles) pump at a regular rhythm.

A medicine that changes the chemistry of the body and helps the heart cells to rest and heal.

A heart muscle disease or weakness that can have many different causes.

Also known as “water pills,” this medicine helps the body eliminate excess fluid that causes congestion.

Shortness of breath.

A non-invasive test that shows the pumping function of the heart and how well the heart valves work.


Ejection Fraction
A number that describes how much blood the heart pumps out with each beat. The normal heart pumps out about 50% of the blood it contains with each heart beat, so a normal ejection fraction is about 50%.

Blood pressure that is abnormally high (higher than 140/90) and can cause heart failure.

A need to urinate at night.

The need to raise the head up to breathe while lying down, usually due to shortness of breath.

A prediction of the probable course and outcome of a disease.

The lower pumping chambers of the heart. The right ventricle pumps blood to the lungs, while the left ventricle pumps blood to the brain, kidneys and rest of the body.


Heart Failure, commonly referred to as Congestive Heart Failure simply put, is the heart’s inability to sufficiently fill with blood OR it’s inability to distribute a sufficient amount of blood throughout the body.

When defining Heart Failure one must consider Blood Pressure. Blood Pressure has two gages-the systolic (the top number on the reading) which is the usual rhythmic contraction, following each dilation (diastole) during which the blood is driven onward from the chambers of the heart to the body and the diastolic (the bottom number on the reading) which is the usual rhythmic dilation, following each contraction (systole), during which the heart muscle relaxes and the chambers of the heart fill with blood.

Heart failure is categorized by which side of the heart that is affected (the right or left). Each side experiences different malfunctions and different symptoms. A patient suffers from dysfunction on one side or the other, whether the occurrence is from the relaxation (diastole-see above) or contraction (systole-see above).

A few of the common causes of Heart Failure range from Genetics, abnormal Blood Pressure, Infection, Alcohol Consumption, Anemia and Heartworms. Some are reversible with proper care and treatment while others can be fatal.

Symptoms include shortness of breath, even when lying down, a chronic cough, and general tiredness and weakness.

Diagnosis of Heart Failure includes a thorough medical history and may be followed by Blood Tests, Urine Tests, a Chest X-ray, an Echocardiogram (which helps identify Systolic Heart Failure from Diastolic Heart Failure-See above), Ejection Fraction, an Electrocardiogram, Coronary Catheterization (Angiogram), or a Nuclear Scan. Future articles will explore each of these in greater depth.

When approaching treatment personal statistics (family history, age, weight, etc.) are greatly considered. While Heart Failure cannot be completely cured, personal changes in diet or exercise may help subdue the problem. Medications such as ACE Inhibitors, Beta Blockers, or Diuretics may be prescribed. An in-depth discussion with a physician will lead a patient in the right direction for living with Heart Failure.

The American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the American Heart Association (AHA) in conjunction with the New York Heart Association (NYHA) have identified guidelines for the four stages (A thru D) and the four classifications (I thru IV) associated with Heart Failure.

While much progress is being made in the field of proper diagnosis and treatment, the complexity of the disease dictates strict attention to medical care.

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. The Heart Failure Center does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The contents of The Heart Failure Center Site ("Content") are for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or any symptoms you may have. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.

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