Understanding Heart Failure

What is Heart Failure?

Heart Failure is a condition that affects the heart’s ability to pump blood to the rest of your body as well as it should. If your heart is damaged or not transferring blood efficiently to the rest of your body, it can become enlarged, weak or stiff.

If you suffer from Heart Failure, your muscles and organs receive less oxygen and nutrients. This can make you feel dizzy, tired and limit your ability to exercise or complete everyday tasks. Extra fluid can build up in your body, making you feel short of breath and cause swelling in your legs or abdomen.

Reduce the Risk of Developing Heart Failure

Symptoms of Heart Failure

The symptoms of Heart Failure can start suddenly (acute) or can be an ongoing concern (chronic). While symptoms can vary from case to case, many signs and symptoms can include:

– Shortness of breath with activity or when lying down
– Fatigue and weakness
– Swelling in the legs, ankles and feet
– Rapid or irregular heartbeat
– Reduced ability to exercise
– Persistent cough or wheezing with white or pink blood-tinged mucus
– Swelling of the belly area (abdomen)
– Very rapid weight gain from fluid build-up
– Nausea and lack of appetite
– Difficulty concentrating or decreased alertness
– Chest pain if heart failure is caused by a heart attack

What Causes Heart Failure?

There are various causes that can lead to Heart Failure, some of which may be present without an individual’s knowledge. Some of these can include:

– Coronary Artery Disease & Heart Attack
– High Blood Pressure
– Faulty Heart Valves
– Damage to the Heart Muscle
– Genetic Factors
– Inflammation of the Heart Muscle (Myocarditis)
– A heart problem that you’re born with (Congenital Heart Defect)
– Abnormal Heart Rhythms (Arrhythmias)
– Substance / Alcohol Abuse
– Diabetes, HIV, an overactive/underactive Thyroid or Other Long-Term Diseases

Acute Heart Failure Causes

– Allergic reactions
– Any illness that affects the whole body
– Blood clots in the lungs
– Severe infections
– Use of certain medications
– Viruses that attack the heart muscle

Heart Failure Risk Factors

There are many risk factors for Developing Heart Failure, some which are out of our control and others which are modifiable such as:

– Coronary Artery Disease
– Heart Attack
– Heart Valve Disease
– High Blood Pressure
– Irregular heartbeats
– Congenital Heart Disease
– Diabetes
– Alcohol Use
– Sleep Apnea
– Smoking
– Poor Diet / Obesity
– Viruses
– Some Diabetes Medications
– Medications used to treat high blood pressure, cancer, blood conditions, irregular or abnormal heartbeats, nervous system diseases, mental health conditions, lung and urinary problems, inflammatory diseases & infections

Ways to Reduce the Risk of Developing Heart Failure

– Control your blood pressure.
– Reduce or Maintain your cholesterol & triglyceride levels.
– Maintain a healthy weight.
– Eat a Healthy Balanced Diet.
– Exercise Regularly
– Limit Alcohol Consumption
– Don’t Smoke.
– Manage Your Stress.
– Manage Diabetes.
– Make sure that you get enough sleep.


Treatment can improve the signs and symptoms of heart failure and may help some people live longer and healthier lives. Medications play a big role in managing heart failure, however, lifestyle changes such as losing weight, exercising, reducing salt (sodium) in your diet and managing stress can improve your quality of life and help improve symptoms.

At Functional Health our Exercise Physiologists and Physiotherapists can help you exercise safely and effectively, but may also help you to implement any lifestyle changes which may help manage your symptoms and improve your outcome. Or ideally prevent you from developing heart failure if you are at risk.