Heart Failure: Facts, Causes, Symptoms, Treatments & Prevention

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 6.2 million adults in the United States have heart failure. In 2012, heart failure alone cost the nation an estimated $30.7 billion in health care services, medicines and missed days at work. 

To say heart failure is endemic in our country is an understatement. This is why it’s important to understand the causes, symptoms and treatments available for this disease, as it is likely to affect you or someone you love at some point in your life.

Causes of Heart Failure

In short, heart failure, also referred to as congestive heart failure, happens when your heart muscle cannot pump blood throughout your body as well as it should. This causes a backup of blood and fluid in your heart and lungs, leading to shortness of breath and a host of other issues.

Like many diseases, heart failure is often caused by other medical conditions, such as coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and cardiomyopathy. It can develop suddenly or over time as you get older.

Heart Failure Symptoms

Like the disease itself, symptoms can develop slowly or happen suddenly, depending on the person and the severity of their condition. Heart failure symptoms include, but aren’t limited to, the following:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Swelling in the legs, ankles and feet
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Swelling of the stomach
  • Rapid weight gain

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to contact a healthcare provider as soon as possible.

Heart Failure Treatments 

Early diagnosis and treatment are key to lengthening and improving the quality of life for those living with heart failure. Treatment for congestive heart failure usually involves medication, reducing sodium intake, drinking less liquids and daily physical activity. In the most severe cases, heart transplants and other surgeries are needed.

Preventing Congestive Heart Failure

Similar to other heart-related issues, preventing heart failure can be done by mitigating symptoms and effects of the conditions causing the disease, which often include lifestyle changes. We recommend not (or quitting) smoking, and incorporating exercise, a heart-healthy diet, managing stress and taking medication as directed by your physician.