Types of heart failure

There are two types of heart failure: left-sided and right-sided.

The medicine your doctor prescribes will be specific for your type of heart failure.


  • When the left ventricle isn't as strong as it should be, it works harder to pump the same amount of blood.
  • There are two types of left-sided heart failure:
    • The left ventricle loses its ability to squeeze (contract) normally. The heart doesn't have enough force to pump blood through the body.
    • The left ventricle can't "relax" because the heart muscle is stiff. The heart can't fill up with blood and there is less blood to pump through the body.
  • You feel short of breath if fluid backs up in your lungs.


  • When the right ventricle doesn't pump blood to the lungs like it should, less oxygen is in the blood. As a result, the blood backs up into the veins.
  • You have swelling in your feet, legs and abdomen if the fluid backs up.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Heart Failure, fifth edition, 1-931876-31-2
First Published: 10/04/2002
Last Reviewed: 12/10/2015