Heart failure affects about 5 million Americans. Roughly 550,000 people are diagnosed with heart failure each year. It is the leading cause of hospitalization in people older than 65. Heart failure is a progressive disorder in which damage to your heart causes weakening of your overall cardiovascular system, making it unable to pump enough blood through the heart to meet the body’s needs for blood and oxygen. Basically, the heart can’t keep up with its workload.
Your heart will naturally attempt to compensate for this disorder by:
- Enlarging. When the heart chamber enlarges, it stretches more and can contract more strongly, so it pumps more blood.
- Developing more muscle mass. The increase in muscle mass occurs because the contracting cells of the heart get bigger. This lets the heart pump more strongly, at least initially.
- Pumping faster. This helps to increase the heart's output.
- Narrowing blood vessels. In order to keep blood pressure up, trying to make up for the heart's loss of power.
- Diverting your blood. By moving blood flow away from less important tissues and organs to maintain flow to the most vital organs, the heart and brain.
There are different types of heart failure, based on the location in your heart and your symptoms. While heart failure can occur in both your left, right or both sides, it most commonly begins in the left side first.
- Right Heart Failure - The inability of the right side of your heart to pump blood into the pulmonary circulation (which carries deoxygenated blood away from the heart, to the lungs, and returns oxygenated blood back to the heart), causing a buildup of fluid in your body and resulting in swelling (edema).
- Left Heart Failure - The inability of the left side of your heart to pump into the systemic circulation (which carries oxygenated blood away from the heart and deoxygenated blood back to the heart). Backup behind the left side of the heart (ventricle) causes a buildup of fluid in your lungs.