Understanding Heart Failure

Animation Copyright © Milner-Fenwick

The heart is a muscle. It pumps blood containing oxygen and nutrients throughout the body.

We need oxygen and nutrients to work……to eat…and even to rest.

Normally, the heart pumps enough blood to all the parts of your body.

But when you have heart failure, your heart is weakened, and pumps less blood.

When this happens, your body tries to help the heart pump more blood by releasing chemicals, called hormones, which make the heart bigger.

But over time, this actually weakens your heart more, and it pumps even less blood.

If your body does not get enough blood, it begins holding onto fluid. Slowly the fluid begins building up. This is called edema, and is the cause of many heart failure symptoms.

Shortness of breath, one of most alarming symptoms of heart failure, is caused by fluid build-up in the lungs.

Swelling and loss of your appetite are other symptoms of heart failure.

They can occur if fluid buildup in the feet, legs, hands, face and abdomen. Heart failure can also make you feel very tired.

That’s because the parts of your body are not getting the blood they need to work properly. The weaker your heart gets, the worse these symptoms become.

If they get too bad, you may need to go to the hospital.

Animation Copyright © Milner-Fenwick