Heart failure is a rather alarming term but it is commonly used to describe the condition where your heart muscle has become weakened and is unable to pump blood around your body as efficiently as before.
Your heart muscle is unable to supply enough blood to your body, quickly enough, leading to a range of different symptoms. These symptoms may first become noticeable when doing something active but can progress to being noticeable even at rest.
It is unlikely for heart failure to be completely cured; it can depend on the reason for it occurring in the first place. What is more important is careful monitoring, taking the right drugs and prompt reporting of any changes in your symptoms. This can improve your quality of life and may make you live longer.
What causes heart failure?
Heart failure can be caused by a number of conditions, the commonest causes include:
- Heart attack
- High blood pressure
- Heart valve problems
- Disease of the heart muscle itself: known as 'dilated' or 'hypertrophic' cardiomyopathy
Classifications of heart failure
Your doctor and nurse may use the way you feel, or symptoms you have during activity, to assess and classify the severity of your heart failure. It will vary depending on how you are feeling and so the classification can change.
The following classifications are used by doctors and nurses:
- Class 1 (very mild heart failure): you have a problem with your heart but this does not result in any limitation in physical activity.
- Class 2 (mild heart failure): your heart failure results in only slight limitation of your activities. You are comfortable at rest, but ordinary physical activity results in symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath or chest discomfort.
- Class 3 (moderate heart failure): you have marked limitation of your activities. You are comfortable at rest, but less than ordinary physical activity results in symptoms.
- Class 4 (severe heart failure): you have an inability to carry out any physical activity without symptoms. Your symptoms may occur at rest.