Heart failure means that your heart muscle does not pump as much blood as your body needs. Failure does not mean that your heart has stopped. It means that your heart is not pumping as well as it should.
Ongoing (chronic) heart failure is a lifelong, progressive condition that may require many lifestyle changes. Symptoms may include:
Heart failure can also develop suddenly. This is called acute or sudden heart failure. Sudden heart failure is a medical emergency that causes rapid and severe shortness of breath, a sudden irregular or rapid heartbeat, and a cough that brings up foamy, pink mucus.
Treatment for heart failure usually involves managing the causes of heart failure and relieving symptoms. Effective treatment may reduce the need for hospital stays and the risk of premature death. Diet and lifestyle changes along with medicines may help to manage symptoms. Implanted devices, such as a pacemaker, might be used to help the heart pump better, relieve symptoms, and lower the risk of sudden death. In some cases, surgery may help treat causes such as coronary artery disease or heart valve problems.
Last Revised: April 26, 2012
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology & Stephen Fort, MD, MRCP, FRCPC - Interventional Cardiology
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