Heart failure refers to the heart failing to pump efficiently. There are many diseases that cause this including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, viral infections, alcohol and diseases affecting the valves of the heart. When the heart is inefficient a number of symptoms occur, depending on the cause and severity of the condition. The main symptoms are tiredness, breathlessness on exertion or lying flat and ankle swelling. Doctors often refer to oedema, which means fluid retention usually in your feet or lungs as a result of the heart not pumping efficiently.
Tests looking for possible causes of heart failure include:
- Chest X-ray
- Electrocardiogram (ECG)
- Echocardiogram (Cardiac ultrasound)
You are likely to have several medications over time, started and monitored by your cardiologist and GP. These include medication to control the amount of fluid that builds up (diuretics), medication to protect your heart and slow it down as well as to thin your blood. You will often be referred to a dietitian or given advice about restricting the amount of fluid and salt you take as this can contribute to symptoms. You can also be involved in cardiac rehabilitation programmes run by trained physiotherapists. You will be given reading material to learn more about your disease.
The cardiologist and your GP usually share follow-up for this condition.