Inability of the heart to keep up with the demands on it, with failure of the heart to pump blood with normal efficiency. When this occurs, the heart is unable to provide adequate blood flow to other organs, such as the brain, liver, and kidneys. Abbreviated CHF. CHF may be due to failure of the right or left ventricle, or both. The symptoms can include shortness of breath (dyspnea), asthma due to the heart (cardiac asthma), pooling of blood (stasis) in the general body (systemic) circulation or in the liver's (portal) circulation, swelling (edema), blueness or duskiness (cyanosis), and enlargement (hypertrophy) of the heart. The many causes of CHF include coronary artery disease leading to heart attacks and heart muscle (myocardium) weakness; primary heart muscle weakness from viral infections or toxins, such as prolonged alcohol exposure; heart valve disease causing heart muscle weakness due to too much leaking of blood or causing heart muscle stiffness from a blocked valve; hyperthyroidism; and high blood pressure.
When diagnosed with CHF, the patient will need to be treated with medications to reduce the symptoms of heart failure as well as to strengthen the heart muscle. Often the doctor will need to follow the function of the heart muscle with an echocardiogram which allows them to assess how well it is pumping (the doctor will often use a term called the ejection fraction (EF) which helps guide the therapies.
Not all conditions that lead to heart failure can be reversed, but treatments can improve the signs and symptoms of heart failure and help you live longer. Lifestyle changes — such as exercising, reducing salt in your diet, managing stress and losing weight — can improve your quality of life.
One way to prevent heart failure is to control conditions that cause heart failure, such as coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, diabetes or obesity.