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What Is Heart Failure?

We always hear people talking about heart failure. But how many of us really know about this disease?

What is heart failure? How can this happen? Why does heart fail? These are the questions that always pop up in our minds awaiting someone to give us the answers.

Heart failure occurs when the heart loses its ability to pump blood effectively. As the heart cannot pump adequately, there is relative stagnation and backward pooling of blood in the veins and organs. When this happens, there is inadequate blood pumped into the organs. Meanwhile, blood that reaches the organs also cannot be returned to the heart. This results in congestion in organs such as the liver and intestines.

Pooled blood causes the liver to enlarge so that one may feel pain the right side of the abdomen and fullness of the stomach and jaundice. The congestion of the intestines results in the loss of appetite. The congestion of these organs can also result in accumulation of fluid in the abdomen. The accumulation of fluids causes distention of the neck veins and results in swelling of the legs.

The congestion of blood in the lungs from a failing left side of the heart can cause difficulty in breathing, accumulation of fluid in the lungs, and coughing out of frothy phlegm. The person will find it easier to breathe when lying propped up.

Because inadequate blood is pumped out by the heart into the arteries, there is inadequate delivery of oxygen and the organs receive inadequate blood flow. Hence, a person with heart failure gets tired easily. Since the amount of blood that filters through the kidneys is reduced, kidneys whose function is to get rid of the body’s waste products cannot function properly. This results in further accumulation of water and waste products in the body. Swelling of body will thus occur as a result of water accumulation.

A person with progressive heart failure A patient with progressive heart failure would be breathless at rest, would often have to prop himself up while lying down and would easily become tired on exertion. Other symptoms such as distended neck veins, abdominal fullness, upper abdominal discomfort and pain may be observed. Moreover, his or her leg may be swollen.

In the next article, causes of heart failure will be highlighted, hopefully that could answer the question - why does heart fail?



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