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Welcome to our health education library. The information shared below is provided to you as an educational and informational source only and is not intended to replace a medical examination or consultation, or medical advice given to you by a physician or medical professional.

What Is Heart Failure?¿Qu© es la insuficiencia card­aca?

What Is Heart Failure?

The heart is a muscle. It pumps oxygen-rich blood to all parts of the body. When you have heart failure, the heart can't pump as well as it should. Blood and fluid may back up into the lungs, and some parts of the body don't get enough oxygen-rich blood to work normally. These problems lead to the symptoms you feel.

When You Have Heart Failure

Because of heart failure, not enough blood leaves the heart with each beat. There are two types of heart failure. Both affect the ventricles' ability to pump blood. You may have one or both types. 

Anatomical view of heart

Systolic heart failure: The heart muscle becomes weak and enlarged. It can't pump enough blood forward when the ventricles contract. Ejection fraction is lower than normal.

Anatomical view of heart

Diastolic heart failure: The heart muscle becomes stiff. It doesn't relax normally between contractions, which keeps the ventricles from filling with blood. Ejection fraction is often in the normal range.

How Heart Failure Affects Your Body

When the heart doesn't pump enough blood, hormones (body chemicals) are sent to increase the amount of work the heart does. Some hormones make the heart grow larger. Others tell the heart to pump faster. As a result, the heart may pump more blood at first, but it can't keep up with the ongoing demands. So, the heart muscle becomes more damaged. Over time, even less blood is pumped through the heart. This leads to problems throughout the body.

What Is Ejection Fraction?

Ejection fraction (EF) measures how much blood the heart pumps out (ejects). This is measured to help diagnose heart failure. A healthy heart pumps at least half of the blood from the ventricles with each beat. This means a normal ejection fraction is around 50% or more.

Publication Source: Heart Rhythm Society

Publication Source: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

Online Source: Heart Rhythm Society

Online Source: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

Date Last Reviewed: 2007-01-15T00:00:00-07:00

Date Last Modified: 2009-04-29T00:00:00-06:00

Jay L. Jordan, MD, is an experienced cardiologist and internal medicine physician who provides a comprehensive range of cardiac care services in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Glendale, Burbank, Calabasas and nearby communities. Take the first step in preventing and controlling heart disease with symptoms such as angina, arrhythmias, atrial fibrillation, cardiomyopathy, carotid artery disease, chest pain, congestive heart failure, coronary vascular disease, hypertension, palpitations, shortness of breath and stroke. Call Dr. Jay L. Jordan at 310-854-5493 or request an appointment online.

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