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November 20, 2017  
HEALTH NEWS: Heart Failure Information Center
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Facts on Heart Failure


Identifying Heart Failure

  • Heart failure is a disease in which the heart weakens and gradually loses the ability to pump blood effectively. In 65 percent of patients, the primary cause of heart failure is coronary artery disease.

  • There are two types of heart failure: systolic heart failure, the inability of the heart to pump enough blood into circulation, and diastolid heart failure, the inability of the heart to relax, thus preventing blood from entering the heart. Systolic heart failure is more common.

  • Nearly 5 million people in the United States are living with heart failure. Of those diagnosed, 70 percent are 60 years old or older. It is estimated that 550,000 cases of heart failure will be diagnosed this year.1

  • Risk factors for heart failure include heart attack; high blood pressure (hypertension); atherosclerosis or clogged arteries; diabetes; chronic lung diseases, such as emphysema; and family history of heart disease or heart failure.

  • Symptoms of heart failure include fatigue; difficulty or inability to participate in normal activities; chest congestion; swelling of the abdomen, feet or legs; and shortness of breath.


  • Identifying Sudden Cardiac Death

  • Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is the abrupt loss of heart function, usually due to a potentially fatal electrical rhythm dysfunction in the heart called ventricular fibrillation, in someone who may or may not have diagnosed heart disease. Each year, SCD claims the lives of as many as 400,000 people in the United States 2

  • Most known heart disease can lead to SCD, and underlying heart disease is almost always found in victims of SCD. Survivors are at risk for recurrent risk.

  • Implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) are intended to treat patients at high risk for SCD. A defibrillator can detect lethal arrhythmias and deliver an electrical shock to the heart. Other measures used to prevent (not treat) SCD include coronary artery bypass surgery, balloon angioplasty, anti-arrhythmic medicines, implantable pacemakers; and, in severe cases, heart transplant.


  • Treating Heart Failure

  • It is recommended that all patients diagnosed with heart failure adopt lifestyle changes, such as dietary changes and supervised exercise.

  • Most patients are also prescribed a variety of medications that help improve heart function. These include vasodilators, inotropes, diuretics, beta-blockers, blood thinners and antiarrhythmic drugs.

  • In more severe cases, patients may require surgical or other medical procedures, including valve replacement; defibrillator implantation; left ventricular assist devices; and, in severe cases, heart transplant.


  • Information provided by Guidant Corporation, part of the Boston Scientific Corporation

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