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Heart failure

Heart failure is a condition caused by the heart failing to pump enough blood around the body at the right pressure. It usually occurs because the heart muscle has become too weak or stiff to work properly. The symptoms of heart failure can vary from person to person. The main symptoms are breathlessness, feeling very tired and ankle swelling.

The symptoms of heart failure can develop quickly (acute heart failure). If this happens, you will need to be treated in hospital. But they can also develop gradually (chronic heart failure).

In most cases, heart failure is a lifelong condition that cannot be cured. Treatment therefore aims to find a combination of measures, including lifestyle changes, medicines, devices or surgery that will improve heart function.

Many of the factors that increase your risk of developing heart failure can be managed either by making lifestyle changes or by taking medicines.

For example, in terms of lifestyle factors, you should:

  • Stop smoking (if you smoke)
  • Keep your blood pressure at a healthy level
  • Keep your cholesterol level under control
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat healthily, including avoiding excess salt in your diet (but severe salt restriction is rarely necessary and is not good for most people); most people should also ensure they have enough iron in their diet (eating red meat or iron supplements can help this)
  • Exercise regularly
  • Limit your alcohol consumption

For information on the above please visit the Healthy lifestyles section of this website.

For more information about Heart failure please visit the NHS website.  The British Heart Foundation website is also a useful source of information.