Heart failure, sometimes also called congestive heart failure, may sound like the heart has stopped beating, but it actually means that the heart muscle is not pumping blood as well as it should. Heart failure is a serious chronic condition that affects about 5.1 million people in the United States. If you have been diagnosed with heart failure, it’s important to learn about the condition.
What Is It Again?
An easy way to understand the condition is by looking at the heart as a pump. It receives “used” blood from the body and pumps it to the lungs so it picks up oxygen – it then receives the “oxygenated” blood back from the lungs and pumps it back out to the body.
When the heart is damaged or weakened, it is not able to do its job as well. But because the body still needs its supply of blood, oxygen and nutrients, it will compensate to keep up with the demand. For example, the heart might stretch out or thicken or try to pump faster so that it can continue to pump blood. The blood vessels may also narrow to keep up the pressure or send blood to more important organs. But the heart can do this only for so long. Eventually these workarounds don’t work as well, and the heart becomes less effective (or weaker) over time.
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