Many people are confused about what heart failure means. Heart failure is not a heart attack and does not mean your heart has stopped or is about to stop. The “failing” heart keeps beating and working, but not as well as it should. People are not “in” or “out” of heart failure. Heart failure is a chronic illness. This means you always have it, but your symptoms may be better or worse at times.
The heart pumps blood through the body. It brings oxygen to the body’s other organs, like the lungs and the kidneys. Oxygen helps the body’s organs do their jobs. But when you have heart failure, your heart cannot pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs. So, you can feel tired and weak. You can also have swelling, or fluid build-up, in your legs, feet, abdomen (stomach), and lungs.
Heart failure is sometimes called “congestive heart failure” (CHF) since this fluid build-up causes symptoms of “congestion in the lungs,” like shortness of breath or frequent coughing.
If heart failure is caught and treated early, it can often be managed. But if it is not treated, the heart has to work harder and becomes even weaker. This may cause your heart failure to get worse, even to the point where you have to go to the hospital.
So, you should know the common symptoms, watch for them every day, and get treated right away. You should also take steps to control your symptoms. Learn about the four ways every day to help manage your heart failure.