Heart failure is a condition in which the heart cannot pump enough blood throughout the body. Heart failure does not mean that your heart has stopped or is about to stop working. It means that your heart is not able to pump blood the way that it should. The heart cannot fill with enough blood or pump with enough force, or both.
Heart failure develops over time as the pumping action of the heart grows weaker. It can affect the left side, the right side, or both sides of the heart. Most cases involve the left side where the heart cannot pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body. With right-sided failure, the heart cannot effectively pump blood to the lungs where the blood picks up oxygen.
The weakening of the heart's pumping ability causes:
- Blood and fluid to "back up" into the lungs
- The buildup of fluid in the feet, ankles, and legs
- Tiredness and shortness of breath
Heart failure is a serious condition. About 5 million people in the United States have heart failure, and the number is growing. Each year, another 550,000 people are diagnosed for the first time. It contributes to or causes about 300,000 deaths each year.
Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/Hf/HF_WhatIs.html)