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What is Heart Failure?


The phrase "heart failure" refers to a complex set of symptoms and physical findings (or syndrome) caused by a failure of the heart to meet the needs of the body.

Heart failure can occur at any age and has many causes; in adults it is most commonly caused by narrowings in the arteries that supply the heart muscle (coronary artery disease, or ischaemic heart disease), untreated high blood pressure or damaged heart valves.

Up to a third of individuals with heart failure have normal coronary arteries and no history of high blood pressure; this condition is called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). When the heart is not pumping blood adequately to organs such as the kidneys and brain they receive less oxygen. In addition, because the heart is not pumping adequately, fluid tends to build up in the lungs or other parts of the body such as the legs.

It affects patients who also have a condition in which the two lower chambers of the heart (known as the left and right ventricles) are not beating at the same time as they do normally. In medical terms, this condition is called ventricular dysynchrony. In the normal heart, both sides beat together and are effectively "synchronised."

Ventricular dysynchrony may worsen heart failure symptoms.

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