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Problems with how well your heart pumps

  • Heart failure

    Tip

    Heart failure can be managed by you and your health care team. Together, you can decrease how hard your heart has to work. You can help your heart work more easily and more efficiently by changing your diet and exercise routine.

    You can also relieve stress, stop smoking, lose extra body weight and take prescribed medicines.

    Heart failure occurs when your heart cannot supply your body with enough blood. Because your heart isn't able to pump the normal amount of blood out of your ventricles, your lungs (and, sometimes, the blood vessels leading into to your heart) can become congested or "backed up" with blood.

    Your heart may be damaged and pump with less force. When your heart cannot pump enough, your heart gets larger, so it can hold more blood. Your heart muscle begins to wear out as it tries to pump this increased blood.

    Eventually, parts of your body hold extra fluid that isn't being circulated very well by your heart. This is called congestion and is why this condition is sometimes called "congestive heart failure."

    Common symptoms of heart failure are:

    • breathing problems with exercise or when lying flat
    • swelling in feet, ankles and legs
    • abdominal swelling
    • weight gain, despite loss of appetite
    • extreme fatigue
    • dizziness, lightheadedness
    • inability to concentrate.

    Your kidneys are also affected by heart failure. When you have heart failure, the amount of blood being pumped to your kidneys is less than usual. When your kidneys don't get enough blood, they can't remove water and other waste products well. This results in extra fluid building up in your body, and an increase in heart failure symptoms.

    High blood pressure

    Blood pressure is the force of the blood pushing against the walls of your arteries. Blood pressure is measured with two numbers. The top number (systolic) shows the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats. The bottom number (diastolic) shows the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests.

    Did you know?

    About 1 in every 4 American adults has high blood pressure. Although high blood pressure usually does not go away, it can be treated and controlled.

    High blood pressure (hypertension) causes your heart to pump with greater than normal force to push blood through your blood vessels. You have high blood pressure if you usually have a top number of 130 or higher or a bottom number of 80 or higher.

    Known as "the silent killer," high blood pressure usually has no symptoms. If left untreated, it can cause:

    • stroke
    • heart attack
    • kidney failure
    • heart failure
    • vision changes or blindness.