Heart Center, featuring the Luce Heart Institute

What is Heart Failure?

Oxygen is carried in the blood; heart failure occurs when the heart has a hard time pumping enough blood and oxygen to meet the body's needs. There is no cure for heart failure and over time heart failure worsens and symptoms occur more often. The key to managing your heart failure is to take an active role in your health and make healthy lifestyle choices.

Common signs and symptoms of heart failure:

  • Shortness of breath. You may have difficulty breathing when you are active, resting or when lying in bed. Shortness of breath happens when fluid backs up in the lungs or when your body isn't getting enough oxygen which is transported by the blood. Many times, people with heart failure require 2 or 3 pillows to raise their head so they are more comfortable when sleeping or even prefer to sleep in the recliner so they can breathe easier.
  • Tiredness. It is common to feel extreme tiredness when active. This is because the heart doesn't pump enough oxygen rich blood to the muscles.
  • Swelling in legs, stomach, overall weight gain. This happens when your kidneys don't work as effective as they should - the body holds onto extra water and fluid. Extra fluid causes swelling/edema and weight gain.
  • Dizziness. This happens when the heart is not pumping enough oxygen rich blood to the brain.
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat. Occurs when the heart muscle doesn't pump hard enough - your heart may beat faster to get the oxygen rich blood to muscles. You can also have an irregular heartbeat when the heart is enlarged.
  • Dry cough - happens when you have extra fluid in the lungs and particularly when you lie flat.
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom at night - occurs because extra oxygen-rich blood moves to the kidneys when you are lying down at night.