Cardiology Heart Failure

Overview and intro of Heart Failure

If you have – or think you have – heart failure, it’s normal to feel scared. But you’re not alone. More than 6 million Americans have heart failure.

Contrary to how it sounds, heart failure does not mean that your heart has stopped beating. It refers to a number of conditions that can affect the way the heart works, its structure, or both.

Over time, heart failure makes it harder for the heart to pump enough blood and oxygen to meet your body’s needs. That’s why most people with heart failure get short of breath, especially when they are active. Even climbing the stairs or carrying groceries may leave you winded. Of course, your symptoms will depend on the type of heart failure you have.

Because it’s a lifelong condition, you must take an active role in your care to stay well. The more informed and equipped you are to manage heart failure, the better you may feel. Use this condition center to learn more about heart failure and ways to help you feel your best.


Your heart is a pump. It moves blood and oxygen-rich nutrients through your body. If you have heart failure, your heart isn’t pumping as well as it should. As a result, fluid can build up in the body – most often in the legs and lungs.

Your heart also isn’t able to push out enough blood to meet your body’s needs for blood and oxygen. It’s no wonder then that if you have heart failure, you may tire more easily and feel short of breath.

There are two main types of heart failure:

  • Heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF): Muscle is too weak and cannot pump blood to the rest of the body with enough force. This is also called systolic heart failure.
  • Heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF): Muscle has trouble relaxing and can’t fill with enough blood. This is also called diastolic heart failure.

Ejection fraction is a measure of how much blood the heart is pumping out to the body. 

If you or a loved one has heart failure, you’re not alone. More than 6 million Americans have heart failure. It’s also the leading reason people 65 and older end up in the hospital.

Heart failure is a serious, lifelong condition. But by managing heart failure, people can live normal lives. The hope is to try to avoid emergency or “acute” episodes when someone would need to be in the hospital, and generally improve patients’ quality of life and ability to do the things they usually do.

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