Doylestown Hospital
595 West State Street, Doylestown, PA 18901 (215) 345-2200
V.I.A. Health System
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Meet Our Cardiologists
Heart Failure Causes and Symptoms
Joint Commission
Activity Level and Restrictions
Reading Food Nutrition Labels
Diet Tips
Controling Fluid Intake
Daily Weight
Heart Failure Medications
Home Care for Heart Patients
Testing for Heart Failure
Guidelines for Sexual Activity
Smoking Cessation
Heart Failure Support Group Meetings

Heart Failure Causes and Symptoms

What is Heart Failure?

Heart failure occurs when the heart can't provide enough oxygen, nutrition, and blood flow to the vital organs; the brain, kidneys and heart.  The weakened heart cannot pump blood forward efficiently.  This may lead to a back-up of fluid into the lungs, legs or arms.

What is Cardiomyopathy?

Cardiomyopathy is weakening of the heart muscle.  Patients with cardiomyopathy can develop heart failure.

What Causes Heart Failure?

  • The most common cause is coronary artery disease (blockage of arteries) and prior heart attacks.  These events weaken the heart muscle. Stress testing or cardiac catheterization can find the cause and help predict recovery.
  • Also common is high blood pressure. Treatment involves tight blood pressure control.
  • Valvular heart disease (bad valves) may cause heart failure. Treatment such as valve repair or replacement may be possible if the disease is not too far advanced.
  • Heart rhythm disorders.
  • Drugs such as chemotherapy medicines, alcohol, or illicit drugs may cause heart failure.  All patients with heart failure must abstain from alcohol and illicit drug use.
  • Smoking.
  • With some patients, genetic (family-related) factors may also play a role.
  • Sometimes, the cause of heart failure is never found.

Heart Failure Symptoms

  • Swelling of the legs, ankles, and feet due to excess fluid
  • Weight gain, abdominal bloating, and decreased appetite due to excess fluid
  • Increased shortness of breath due to excess fluid
  • Coughing due to excess fluid.
  • Fatigue due to reduced blood supply to the organs and muscles
  • Dizziness or "blackouts" due to reduced blood supply to the organs

Many people with heart failure lead normal, active lives. They do so because they have learned about heart failure and follow a self-management plan of care. 

Strategies for self management include:

  1. Taking all medications as directed.
  2. Following a 2000mg low sodium diet.
  3. Weigh yourself daily.
  4. Limiting all fluid intake to 48 ounces daily.
  5. Getting regular physical activity.
  6. Quitting smoking.
  7. Limiting alcohol consumption.
  8. Monitoring symptoms daily and call the cardiologist for any new or worsening symptoms.

Following these recommendations can make you feel better, prevent your heart failure from worsening, prevent hospital admissions, and help you live longer with a good quality of life.