Understanding Heart Failure: Symptoms, Causes, and Types

A recent study conducted by WHO suggests that India is responsible for about 20% of the 17.9 million deaths occurring globally due to cardiovascular diseases. Heart failure cases have shot up exponentially in India in the past few years, especially among the younger category. 

Heart failure is a serious, long-term medical condition in which the heart muscles fail to function properly. The heart muscles cannot effectively pump oxygenated blood out of the heart, resulting in inadequate blood supply to other parts of the body. As a result, blood and fluid retention occurs in the lungs and legs. 

Types of Heart Failure 

The heart has four chambers – the upper atrium and the lower ventricles. Heart failure can be categorized into two types, depending on which chamber and part of the heart is affected:

1. Left-sided heart failure: 

This type involves the heart’s left ventricle and can be further classified as systolic or diastolic. 

  • In systolic heart failure, the left ventricle cannot contract effectively, leading to insufficient blood pumping out of the heart. 
  • In diastolic heart failure, the left ventricle has difficulty relaxing and filling properly with oxygenated blood from the lungs. Both types of left-sided heart failure cause blood to accumulate in the lungs.

2. Right-sided heart failure: 

This type occurs when the right ventricle fails to pump blood efficiently. As a result, fluid can build up in the abdomen, legs, or feet.

Causes of Heart Failure

A variety of underlying health issues and lifestyle choices can trigger heart failure. Some of the primary causes include:

  • Coronary Artery Disease: Blockages or narrowing of the coronary arteries restrict blood flow to the heart muscle. 
  • High Blood Pressure (Hypertension): Persistent high blood pressure strains the heart, causing it to work harder to pump blood throughout the body. This eventually weakens the heart muscle.
  • Previous Heart Attacks (Myocardial Infarction): Heart attacks can cause permanent damage to the heart muscle, reducing its ability to pump effectively and increasing the risk of heart failure.
  • Cardiomyopathy: This condition involves abnormalities in the heart muscle structure or function, which can impair the heart’s ability to pump blood efficiently.
  • Valvular Heart Disease: Malfunctioning heart valves can disrupt blood flow within the heart, leading to increased pressure and strain on the heart muscle.
  • Congenital Heart Defects: Structural abnormalities present at birth can affect the heart’s development and function, potentially leading to heart failure later in life.
  • Arrhythmias: It is also called as irregular heart rhythms and can disrupt the heart’s pumping action, reducing its efficiency over time.
  • Other Factors: Lifestyle choices such as obesity, diabetes, and smoking can contribute to the development of heart failure by increasing the risk of other cardiovascular diseases and placing additional strain on the heart.


Some of the most common symptoms observed in heart failure patients are: 

  • Waking up with difficulty breathing at night.
  • Chest discomfort.
  • Irregular heartbeat sensations.
  • Fatigue during physical exertion.
  • Swelling in ankles, legs, and abdomen.
  • Increase in body weight.
  • Nighttime urination urgency.
  • Persistent dry cough.
  • The feeling of fullness or hardness in the stomach.
  • Decreased appetite or stomach upset.


Early diagnosis is important for improving treatment outcomes for individuals with heart failure. In order to diagnose heart failure conditions accurately, physicians analyze your medical history and perform a physical examination of your heart and lungs. Then, a few tests may be recommended to identify the underlying causes of heart failure. Common diagnostic tests for heart failure include: 

  • Doing an echocardiogram to see how well your heart is working
  • Doing an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) to check your heart’s electrical activity
  • Taking a chest X-ray to see the condition of your heart and lungs
  • Doing blood tests to check for certain markers like BNP or NT-proBNP
  • Using cardiac catheterization to measure pressure and blood flow in your heart
  • Doing a stress test to see how your heart works during physical activity.


Unfortunately, there is no cure for heart failure. Still, with some positive lifestyle adjustments, medications, and certain medical procedures, heart failure is a manageable condition. 

Your treatment will be based on the type and cause of your heart failure. Your doctor will discuss about the most suitable treatment approach for you. Here are some strategies to manage symptoms and improve heart function: 

  • Lifestyle Changes: Changing your lifestyle can greatly improve heart health. This includes eating a balanced diet (low sodium consumption), staying physically active, quitting smoking, and moderating alcohol consumption.
  • Medications: Doctors generally prescribe drugs like ACE inhibitors or ARBs, beta-blockers, diuretics, and others to relieve symptoms and help the heart work better in heart failure patients. 
  • Medical Procedures: Some patients may need support from devices like pacemakers or defibrillators to regulate heart rhythm. Others might require surgeries like heart valve surgery or coronary artery bypass surgery to improve heart function.

Surgical risk is high in this cohort of patients, but it is rewarding as it can change prognosis quite dramatically!

  • Heart Transplant: In severe cases where other treatments fail to manage heart failure, a heart transplant may be considered.
  • Regular Monitoring: Having regular check-ups with your doctor is essential to monitor heart function and address any new symptoms or concerns.
  • Weight Management: Maintaining a healthy weight is important for managing heart failure and reducing strain on the heart.
  • Stress Reduction: Stress can aggravate heart failure symptoms. Incorporating deep breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga into our daily routine can help to relax and reduce stress. 

With proper management and care, living with heart failure can be manageable, allowing individuals to lead active lives. By identifying the causes, symptoms, and diagnosis and understanding the various treatment options for heart failure, individuals can easily manage their cardiac health and improve their quality of life. 

Book an appointment with our hospital, Heart360 Care, the complete cardiac care center in Chennai, to meet our expert cardiologists to manage heart failure and related cardiac issues.  

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A healthy heart is the key to a fulfilling life with your loved ones. At Heart360 we bring 17 years of expertise from the United States to provide the best of care to you and your family.

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