Heart failure means the heart is unable to pump blood as well as it should. Heart failure does not mean the heart has stopped working.
The "poor pump" is unable to keep up with the body’s constant need for oxygen and nutrients. In response:
the walls of the heart stretch to hold more blood
the heart muscle walls thicken to pump more strongly.
the kidneys cause the body to retain fluid and sodium. This increases the amount of blood circulating through the heart and blood vessels.
your body tries to compensate by releasing hormones that make the heart work harder. Over time, these compensatory mechanisms fail and symptoms of heart failure begin to appear. Like an over-stretched rubber band, the heart’s ability to stretch and shrink back decreases. The heart muscle becomes over-stretched and is unable to pump blood effectively.
Blood backs up into the arms, legs, ankles, feet, liver, lungs or other organs; the body becomes congested. This is called congestive heart failure.
Heart failure is a progressive process, even if no new damage occurs to the heart.
Changes seen with heart failure
Inside the normal heart
the walls of the heart stretch and the chambers dilate
the walls of the heart thicken
What causes heart failure?
Heart failure is most often caused by:
Coronary artery disease (myocardial infarction or heart attack):
Coronary artery disease
Coronary artery disease causes decreased blood flow to the heart muscle. If the arteries become blocked, the heart becomes starved for oxygen and nutrients (ischemia). In a short time, damage to the heart muscle (a heart attack) occurs. The damaged area can not pump normally, causing heart failure.
Other causes include:
Cardiomyopathy: damage to the heart muscle from infection, alcohol or drug abuse, pregnancy or no apparent cause
Conditions that overwork the heart: high blood pressure (hypertension), valve disease, thyroid disease, kidney disease, diabetes mellitus or heart defect
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