Heart Failure

Normal heart and an enlarged (dilated) heart

Heart failure occurs when the heart muscle does not pump as much blood as the body needs. Failure does not mean that the heart has stopped pumping but rather that it is failing to pump as effectively as it should.

The body tries to compensate for the heart's reduced pumping ability by:

  • Holding on to (retaining) salt and water to increase the amount of blood in the bloodstream.
  • Increasing the heart rate.
  • Increasing the size of the heart.

Current as of: December 16, 2019

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Rakesh K. Pai MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Stephen Fort MD, MRCP, FRCPC - Interventional Cardiology

Is it an emergency?

If you or someone in your care has chest pains, difficulty breathing, or severe bleeding, it could be a life-threatening emergency. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately.
If you are concerned about a possible poisoning or exposure to a toxic substance, call Poison Control now at 1-800-567-8911.

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