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Heart Failure FAQs

Reviewed by John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP, on April 25, 2017

Take the Heart Failure Quiz First! Before reading this FAQ, challenge yourself and
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Q:What is heart failure?

A:Heart failure simply describes a condition in which the heart fails to work as it should, and it cannot pump blood to sufficiently meet the body's needs>

Heart failure does not necessarily mean the heart has stopped working. . Heart failure is a serious condition that needs medical attention, but it can often be managed successfully with medications and lifestyle changes.

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Q:True or false: Congestive heart failure and heart failure are the same

A:False.

"Heart failure" and "congestive heart failure" are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same. Congestive heart failure (CHF) refers to a specific type of heart failure where fluid "congestion" collects in the lungs and other body tissues. When the heart is not able to pump efficiently, the kidneys don't receive as much blood so they work less efficiently and less fluid is filtered out of the body as urine. This fluid backs up throughout the body, especially the lungs, legs and ankles, and the abdomen.

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Q:There are three types of heart failure. True or False?

A:True.

There are three types of heart failure:
- Left-sided heart failure: The heart cannot effectively pump blood out to the body.
- Right-sided heart failure: Usually occurs as a result of left-sided heart failure. The right side of the heart becomes damaged, and blood starts backing up in the body.
- Congestive heart failure: Fluid collects mainly in the lungs and other body tissues.

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Q:What are common signs and symptoms of heart failure?

A:Common signs and symptoms of heart failure include:
- Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
- Fatigue
- Swelling (edema)
- Coughing
- Wheezing
- Lightheadedness
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea
- Confusion
- Fast heart rate

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Q:True or False: A patient can have heart failure without being aware of it.

A:True.

It's common for people to be in the early stages of heart failure and not be aware of it. Early on, there may be no symptoms because the body and heart can often compensate for any deficits. When symptoms start they may resemble other illnesses. Early symptoms include shortness of breath, racing heartbeat, trouble sleeping, extreme fatigue, and weakness. In some cases, heart failure can occur suddenly and symptoms may include severe shortness of breath, irregular or fast heartbeat, and a cough with foamy, pink mucus. If you experience any signs and symptoms of heart failure, see a doctor.

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Q:What are risk factors for heart failure?

A:Risk factors for heart failure include:

- Other heart-related conditions including coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, previous heart attack, abnormal heart valves, congenital heart defects, heart muscle disease, abnormal heart rhythm
- Other medical conditions including high blood pressure, lung disease, diabetes, obesity, sleep apnea, overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), severe anemia
- Lifestyle factors: smoking, lack of exercise, eating foods high in fat, cholesterol, and sodium
- Age 65 and older

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Q:How many adults in the U.S. have been diagnosed with heart failure?

A:About 6.5 million adults in the U.S. have been diagnosed with heart failure.

This number has been steadily increasing and the American Heart Association estimates there will be more than 8 million people with the condition by 2030. The incidence of heart failure is thought to be increasing because risk factors are on the rise. More people are surviving heart attacks due to better medical care, however, a previous heart attack increases the risk for heart failure. Diabetes and obesity, other risk factors, are becoming health epidemics. Finally, the population of elderly is growing, and increased age is a risk factor for heart failure.

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