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Are you at risk of heart failure? See Types, Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

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The heart is the muscular organ that pumps blood through the blood vessels of the circulatory system. It also distributes oxygen and nutrients throughout the body.

When the heart is unable to pump enough blood and oxygen to support the other organs in the body, the patient is diagnosed as having heart failure.

According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), heart failure does not always imply that your heart has completely ceased to function. It indicates that your heart is functioning at a lower capacity.

For instance, it is no longer able to work as efficiently it has been doing previously. This lower functioning capacity puts you at risk of damaged vital body organs and a collection of fluid in your lungs.

Types of heart failure

There are various types of heart failure that a patient may come down with. According to the US medical research facility and clinical medicine group of hospitals, Cleveland Clinic, these types of heart failure usually include left-side heart failure, right-sided heart failure, and congestive heart failure.

“The left-side heart failure has two components, heart failure with reduced left ventricular function (HF-rEF), and heart failure with preserved left ventricular function (HF-pEF),” cites Cleveland Clinic.

In the first component, the lower left chamber of the heart known as left ventricle gets bigger and cannot squeeze or contract hard enough to pump the right amount of oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body, states Cleveland.

In the second, Cleveland says that the heart will contract and pump blood normally. “However, the bottom chambers of the heart which are known as ventricles will be thicker and stiffer than normal. As a result of this thickness and stiffness, the ventricles will be unable to relax properly and fill up all the way,” states Cleveland Clinic.

It adds that since the ventricles will contain less blood, the heart will subsequently pump less blood to the other body organs during contractions. When the patient has left-side heart failure, they will equally be at risk of getting right-side heart failure.

However, right-side heart failure can also be caused by lung problems. The patient might also have congestive heart failure.

“This type of heart failure involves the heart’s inability to handle the blood volume. This causes an accumulation in other parts of your body, most commonly in your lungs and lower extremities such as feet and legs,” cites Cleveland Clinic.

Risk factors

There are certain health conditions that will increase the risk of heart failure. According to the Centre for Disease Control, these medical conditions include:

  • The Coronary Artery Disease (CAD): This is the most common type of heart disease and heart attacks.
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Valvular Heart Disease

According to the CDC, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity are also risk factors for Atrial Fibrillation. At the same time, diabetes and obesity are risk factors for babies with congenital heart defects.

“Women suffering from diabetes, or obesity also have a high chance of giving birth to children with a congenital heart defect,” says Dr. Sean Del-rossi, a Consultant Paediatric Interventional Cardiologist at Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi.

Unhealthy lifestyle behaviours may also put you at risk of suffering a heart failure. According to the CDC, these habits include:

  • Smoking of tobacco
  • Eating foods high in fat, cholesterol, and sodium
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Low to zero physical exercises


A patient who at risk of heart failure may show two sets of symptoms. They may show advanced symptoms which are more common. They may also spot symptoms that are less commonly associated with heart failure. According to the CDC, the common symptoms include:

Shortness of breath: This will tend to occur during daily activities, after an activity or even at rest. Shortness of breath will seem to worsen when the patient is lying down. For example, the patient may wake up at night gasping for air.

Fatigue: The patient will tend to feel tired and worn out most of the time. They will have difficulties exercising or doing activities that are too physically engaging.

Swelling and weight gain: The patient may develop swollen ankles and legs. This swelling is the result of a build-up of fluid known as oedema. This swelling will ease during morning hours and appear to get aggravated within the day.

Fainting: The patient might start having unexplained episodes of fainting. These episodes will usually be preceded by a feeling of lightheadedness.

The less common symptoms will usually including:

Belly swelling: The patient may have a swollen stomach. This swelling of the stomach will usually occur together with the swelling of the ankles and the legs.

Coughing and Wheezing: The patient might have a persistent cough that will tend to get worse during the night. In addition, the may seem to keep wheezing.

Heart rate: The patient’s heart rate will increase tremendously. They may have a pounding, fluttering or irregular heartbeat (same as the fluttering and pounding of heart symptoms patients with atrial fibrillation experience).


According to the Centre for Disease Control, proper treatment and management of heart failure is largely dependent on early diagnosis. The treatment method that a cardiologist will prescribe will involve the types of symptoms that the patient has been presenting.

“Main treatment will include treatment by medications and surgeries,” states the CDC. Treatment by surgery will aim to correct coronary artery blockage, heart attack, valve repair or replacement, or any congenital heart disease for which heart failure is a risk factor.

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In addition to these two modes of treatment, a healthy diet and lifestyle changes might be recommended.

“These will include a reduction in the amount of sodium taken in the patient’s diet, drinking of less liquids, prescribed daily physical activities, and the use of special devices that remove excess salt and water from the blood,” the CDC cites. At the same time, the patient will be asked to keep off smoking and drinking alcohol.

The Cleveland Clinic also recommends that patients who suspect they have heart failure must be on the look-out for other ailments including asthma, kidney disease, anemia, hypertension, chronic lung disease, thyroid disease, and diabetes.

“The patient might be having an ailment that has symptoms that are related to heart failure but not heart failure,” cites Cleveland Clinic.

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