Heart Failure

Heart failure is an all too common end result of many different types of heart disease. In heart failure, heart damage of one form or another leaves the heart unable to perform all the work it must to fulfill the body’s needs. Numerous symptoms may result; some degree of disability is common, as is early death. However, treatment of heart failure has advanced significantly in recent decades, and many people with heart failure are now able to live quite well for many years.
The most prominent symptoms of heart failure are dyspnea, easy fatiguability, and symptoms of cardiac arrhythmias (from palpitations to sudden death), but other symptoms can occur as well. Read about the symptoms of heart failure. In many people with heart failure, dyspnea is by far the most prominent symptom. These people are often said to have congestive heart failure.

There are several “types” of heart failure. The most prominent of these are dilated cardiomyopathy, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and diastolic heart failure.

The most common form of heart failure is dilated cardiomyopathy, which is characterized by a prominent enlargement of the left ventricle. The reason dilated cardiomyopathy is common is that it is the typical end result of many, many kinds of heart disease. Read about the causes of dilated cardiomyopathy. The treatment of dilated cardiomyopathy has advanced tremendously in recent years, and with aggressive therapy people with this condition are today living much longer, and with fewer symptoms, than they might have not long ago. Read about the treatment of dilated cardiomyopathy.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a genetic disorder of the heart that produces a thickening (hypertrophy) of the heart muscle. It can produce several kinds of cardiac problems, including heart failure. The severity of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy varies tremendously from person to person and is related to the specific genetic variant (of which there are many) that is producing it. Its treatment can become quite complex, and most people with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy should be followed regularly by a cardiologist. A common question that comes up in young people with this condition is whether they should be allowed to engage in sports, because sudden death during exertion is a significant possibility in some. Read about exercise recommendations with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

In diastolic heart failure, while the ability of the heart muscle to pump blood remains normal, the heart muscle becomes excessively “stiff” (a condition called diastolic dysfunction). This stiffness elevates cardiac pressures, which leads to lung congestion and dyspnea, which can often become quite severe. Diastolic heart failure is treated medically. Part of this medical treatment is to aggressively control hypertension and diabetes, if these disorders are present.

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