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Overview

Your heart is a pump. It moves blood and oxygen-rich nutrients through your body. If you have heart failure, your heart isn't pumping as well as it should. As a result, fluid can build up in the body—most often in the legs and lungs.

Your heart also isn't able to push enough blood to meet your body's needs for blood and oxygen. It's no wonder then that if you have heart failure, you may tire more easily and feel short of breath.

About heart failure

With heart failure, the heart muscle is either:

  • too weak and cannot pump blood to the rest of the body with enough force (systolic failure) and/or
  • has trouble relaxing and can't fill with enough blood (diastolic failure)

If you or a loved one has heart failure, you're not alone. Almost 6 million Americans have heart failure, and there are an additional 500,000 new cases diagnosed each year. It's also the leading reason people 65 years of age and older end up in the hospital.

Heart failure is a serious, lifelong condition. But by managing heart failure, people can live normal lives. The hope is to try to avoid emergency or "acute" episodes when someone would need to be in the hospital, and generally improve patients' quality of life and ability to do the things they usually do.

    • Last Edited 09/16/2016