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

Some Heart Failure Glossary Terms:

An irregular Heartbeat. Tachycardia arrhythmia occurs when the Heart Rate is more than 100 Beats per Minute (BPM). Bradycardia occurs when the Heart Rate is less than 60 BPM. Patients complain of a fluttering sensation in their chest.

Beta Blockers-(Beta-adrenergic Blocking Agents)
Used to prevent chest pain (angina), alleviate high blood pressure (hypertension) and in some cases, to prevent further heart attacks.

BNP-(Brain Natriuretic Peptide)
A blood test to help doctors evaluate cardiac function. This amino acid/peptide is secreted by the ventricles and is elevated in patients with aneurysms or lesions in the Left Ventricle (LV). The more severe the damage to the LV, the higher the levels of BNP. Normal BNP levels range from 0-99 picograms per liter. Abnormal levels of BNP range from 100-900 picograms per liter, depending on the severity of Heart Failure (HF).

Cardiac Arrest
When blood circulation stops suddenly, causing the blood supply to quit flowing through the Heart and circulatory system. Cardiac Arrest can result in instant death. In the US, about 1000 people die daily as a result of Cardiac Arrest.

A group of fats found in the bloodstream and all cells in the body. There are two types of cholesterol-HDL and LDL. Contrary to popular understanding, cholesterol can be considered good or bad.

Present at birth. Congenital diseases can be associated with infections or injuries that the mother contracts during pregnancy. Congenital diseases can also be due to hereditary factors.

A Latin derivative meaning to encircle. When referring to the Heart, it is referring to the blood vessels and arteries that surround the heart and supply blood to the heart muscle.

The bottom number on the blood pressure 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.

A diuretic increases urine output and urination frequency. Often Heart patients are given a diuretic to alleviate water retention and bloating.

A test that shows a picture of the heart’s movements. It shows the heart’s four chambers and the heart valves. This test is administered to evaluate the overall performance of the heart. The patient feels no discomfort, as this test is non-invasive.

See Heart Failure Glossary


By Sheryl McCormick

Universally, Heart Failure (HF) is primarily associated with high blood pressure (hypertension) and/or heart attacks. However, Heart Failure can have various causes including: family history (genetics), personal behavior (obesity, high-fat diet, smoking, alcohol intake, drug abuse, and lack of an exercise regime), diabetes, infection, advanced age, anemia, thyroid problems, and even heartworms.

A Heart attack, Heart valve problems, and/or loss of Heart rhythm (Arrhythmia), are serious leading proponents of Heart Failure, sometimes resulting in immediate death. If discovered early enough, depending on the circumstances, these can be managed through Heart Surgery.

Common sense dictates that often family history (genetics) and personal behavior are closely linked. Genetics has been proven to play a large role in the causes of HF. Growing up in a family that does not place emphasis on a healthy diet or exercise can lead to negative adult health-related behaviors including a diet high in fat, smoking, excessive alcohol intake and placing little importance on regular exercise. All of these are behaviors that can lead to high cholesterol, Heart Disease and eventually, Heart Failure.

Obviously, personal behavior can be controlled. A person can monitor their nutrition (specifically their caloric and fat intake), and their alcohol intake. A patient can stop smoking, quit taking drugs that are not prescribed, and exercise on a regular basis. There are a plethora of diet and exercise programs and support groups throughout the United States to facilitate a person that seeks help monitoring any of these behaviors. Proper Heart Health can also alleviate or rectify high blood pressure (hypertension), which can lead to Heart Failure.

Diabetes can undoubtedly lead to Heart Failure. Approximately two-thirds of patients with diabetes die from Heart Disease or Stroke. High levels of cholesterol and high blood pressure, both of which are major causes of Heart Failure, are common ailments associated with Diabetes. Through proper monitoring (Diet, Exercise, & Physician care) a patient can significantly reduce the risk of eventual HF. And although Heart Failure is more associated in people with advancing age, it can occur at a much younger age in those suffering with Diabetes.

An infection of the heart muscles, usually viral (pertaining to a virus), for reasons unknown, can also be a major cause of Heart Failure. Influenza, an acute contagious respiratory infection, can be fatal; especially in aging persons, or persons with pre-existing illnesses. Adenovirus, which infects the upper respiratory tract, may also lead to Heart Failure. Enteroviruses, which include Coxsackievirus, Echovirus, and Poliovirus infect the intestines, are viruses that can lead to HF, but are most common in children. Any of these viruses can lead to inflammation of the Heart muscles, commonly referred to as myocarditis.

Without proper maintenance, as we age, we lose muscle definition and ability. The heart muscle is no different. Without proper Heart Health and maintenance, the Heart may lose its ability to sufficiently pump blood. As mentioned above, proper diet and exercise are essential components of maintaining a Heart free from HF or Heart Disease.

Hemoglobin is a protein present in the Red Blood Cells (RBC) that carries oxygen. If a person is suffering from Anemia, they will have a low RBC count (For men an average of 5,500,000, for women an average of 4,500,000 per microliter). Thus, less hemoglobin is present to carry oxygen properly throughout the circulatory system. Often, proper diet with a sufficient amount of protein (approximately 50 grams per day for persons over 4 years of age) can improve a persons RBC count.

In patients with thyroid problems, there is an elevated production of the hormone thyroxine. This can cause the Heart to beat more rigorously producing an abnormal Heart Rate (tachycardia). During exercise, this can be considered normal. However, prolonged and persistent periods of a rigorous Heart beat can lead to extensive damage to the Heart muscle. If a person experiences this while at rest, this can be considered an early sign of Heart Failure. Always consult your physician if this occurs.

Heartworms, which are rare in humans, are a parasite carried from a host (usually a mosquito) to host (whomever it bites). A person with a Heartworm condition may live several years without realizing that a Heartworm is present. But prolonged time without diagnosis may result in Heart Failure.

There are some instances that the HF occurs because of an unknown cause (idiopathic) and personal lifestyle choices have nothing to do with the disease. If you or any one you know displays symptoms of Heart Failure, consult a physician.

See also:

Symptoms of Heart Failure

Classifications of Heart Failure

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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