Heart Failure

What is Heart Failure?

Heart failure occurs where the heart stops functioning and fails. The heart pumps blood to the various parts of the body continuously with the help of the cardiac muscle. The heart may not pump enough blood or function the way it should. It tries to make up for the insufficiency by enlarging itself or building muscle as it is forced to pump faster to keep up with the demand. The effects on the body can be negative as it may lead to fluid build-up in the other organs like the lungs and liver, and if the heart weakens or becomes more damaged trying to do this.

Forms of heart failure can be systolic or diastolic, where the failure is on the left side, Right-sided heart failure often occurs due to left-sided failure. Another form of heart failure is congestive heart failure, where fluid builds up around the heart and causes it to pump inefficiently.

What are the types of Heart Failure?

Left-sided heart failure
The left heart ventricle is located in the bottom left side of your heart, pumping oxygen-rich blood to the rest of your body. When your left ventricle cannot pump efficiently, it prevents your body from getting enough oxygen-rich blood, causing heart failure. The blood backs up into your lungs, resulting in shortness of breath and a buildup of fluid. This is the most common type of heart failure.

Right-sided heart failure
The right heart ventricle is responsible for pumping blood to your lungs to collect oxygen. Usually triggered by left-sided heart failure, the right ventricle has to work harder due to the accumulation of blood in the lungs. Fluid may back up into your abdomen, legs and feet, causing swelling or congestion in the legs, ankles and swelling within the abdomen such as the GI tract and liver (causing ascites).

Diastolic heart failure
Also known as heart failure with preserved ejection fraction, the left ventricle cannot relax or fill fully. The stiffness, which is usually due to heart disease, means that your heart does not fill with blood easily (diastolic dysfunction). It leads to a lack of blood flow to the rest of the organs in your body. It is more common in women than in men.

Systolic heart failure
The left ventricle loses its ability to contract vigorously, indicating a pumping problem. The contractions of the heart are essential to pump oxygen-rich blood out to the body. It usually develops when your heart is weak and enlarged (systolic dysfunction). It is more common in men than in women.

What are the symptoms of Heart Failure?

  • Bloating
  • Congested lungs
  • Dizziness, fatigue, and weakness
  • Fluid and water retention
  • Impaired thinking
  • Increased need to urinate during the night
  • Loss of appetite and nausea
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeats
  • Shortness of breath when you exert yourself or when you lie down
  • Swelling in your legs, ankles and feet

How is Heart Failure diagnosed?

Blood Test
A  blood test will be done to organ function, and check cholesterol levels and the presence of anemia.

An echocardiogram is a form of ultrasound which shows the movement, structure, and function of your heart and detects any present abnormalities.

Ejection fraction (EF)
An ejection fraction measures how well your heart pumps with each beat to determine if systolic dysfunction or heart failure with preserved left ventricular function is present.

Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG)
An electrocardiogram records the electrical impulses traveling through the heart.

Cardiac Catheterization
This is an invasive procedure where a catheter is inserted into your blood vessel, usually in the groin or arm, then guided into the heart. By showing how much blood is currently flowing through the heart, it can be analyzed if coronary artery disease is a cause of congestive heart failure.

Imaging Test
Cardiac imaging tests are done with ultrasound or CT scan to check the size of your heart and if there is fluid build-up surrounding organs.

Cardiac Stress Test
A stress test is done by monitoring your heart function while you run on a treadmill and  provides information about the likelihood of coronary artery disease.


Listen as Dr. Julian Tan discusses how you can get your heart screened:

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