Heart Failure

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Heart failure is a medical condition that affects the heart’s ability to pump blood as efficiently as it should, which might happen if it is too stiff, damaged, or weak. It can cause a range of symptoms that affect your daily life and require ongoing medical attention.

What is heart failure?

Heart failure, or congestive heart failure, occurs when the heart cannot pump blood well enough to meet the body’s needs. Many believe it means the heart is not working at all, but this isn’t the case. 

It can happen suddenly or develop slowly over time, affecting people of all ages. This condition is chronic, meaning it requires life-long care, but you can manage it with lifestyle changes, medications, and medical procedures.



Heart failure can cause a wide range of symptoms, varying from person to person. Some of the most common symptoms include: 

  • Fatigue (tiredness) 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Coughing or wheezing 
  • Chest pain or discomfort 
  • A rapid or irregular heartbeat 
  • Feeling dizzy, lightheaded, or fainting 
  • Oedema (swelling) in the legs, ankles, or feet  

You may also have trouble sleeping and experience appetite loss, confusion, bloating, and a persistent need to urinate at night. Some people feel anxious or depressed due to their condition, which your GP can recommend support for. 

The severity of your symptoms may vary depending on the stage of heart failure. If you have sudden or severe symptoms, you may wish to call 111 for advice or 999 for emergency care. 


Causes and risk factors

If the heart is weakened or damaged, it will not be able to pump out the amount of blood it needs. If the ventricles (two chambers in the heart that expand and contract to pump blood around your body) stiffen, they cannot fill with enough blood between beats. Many things can lead the heart to weaken, become damaged, or stiffen, including lifestyle factors, underlying health conditions, and genetics. 

An allergic reaction, a virus affecting the heart, blood clots in the lungs, and severe infections or illnesses can cause heart failure. Lifestyle factors include consuming too much alcohol, smoking tobacco, or using recreational drugs. 

You may have a higher risk of developing this condition if you have high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, a heart rhythm disorder, diabetes, obesity, and a family history of heart disease. 

Certain medications and chemotherapy can also increase the risk. In some cases, the condition can develop without any obvious cause. We call this idiopathic heart failure.



Diagnosing heart failure involves a physical exam, taking a detailed medical history, and performing various tests. The physical exam may include listening to the heart and lungs, measuring your blood pressure, and checking for swelling. 

When we discuss your medical history, we will ask how often you experience symptoms and their severity, about your family history, and whether you have any other health conditions. 

Tests can include blood tests, electrocardiograms (ECGs), echocardiograms, and stress tests. These tests help us determine the underlying cause of your heart failure and assess the severity of your condition. We may also perform breathing tests to ensure a lung condition is not the cause of your breathlessness. 

Once we have confirmed you have heart failure, we will let you know if it is left or right-sided and systolic or diastolic. We will also provide treatment recommendations.



Treatment can involve a combination of lifestyle changes, medications, and medical procedures. Lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, reducing alcohol intake, following a healthy diet, and exercising often can all help to improve heart function. 

We may recommend diuretics to reduce fluid build-up, beta-blockers to slow the heart rate, and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors to relax blood vessels. Medical procedures may include implanting a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD)  and, in some cases, surgery to repair or replace a damaged heart valve. 

Can it be reversed?

Unfortunately, we cannot reverse heart failure in most cases. However, we may be able to cure it if we find and treat the cause early enough. If your condition is irreversible, we can help you manage it and control your symptoms.


Living with heart failure

Living with heart failure can be challenging, but there are many resources and support systems available to help you and your family. These may include cardiac rehabilitation programs, support groups, and counselling services. 

It is important to work closely with a healthcare team to manage your symptoms and prevent complications. By following a treatment plan, making lifestyle changes, and taking medications as prescribed, you can improve your quality of life and reduce the risk of hospitalisation.


Book an appointment

By taking a proactive approach to your heart health, you can reduce your risk of heart failure and maintain your overall health and well-being. Remember, heart failure is a serious medical condition, but with the right care and support, it is possible to manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life. 

Book an appointment to learn how we can help you today.

Dr Syed

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