Albany Internal Medicine

Heart Failure

Heart Failure (CHF)

Heart failure is a condition in which the heart can't pump enough blood to meet the body's needs. In some cases, the heart can't fill with enough blood. In other cases, the heart can't pump blood to the rest of the body with enough force. Some people have both problems.

The term "heart failure" doesn't mean that your heart has stopped or is about to stop working. However, heart failure is a serious condition that requires medical care.

Heart Failure


  • Heart failure is due to the heart being unable pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs.
  • Right-side heart failure occurs if the heart can’t pump enough blood to the lungs to pick up oxygen. Right-side heart failure may cause fluid to build up in the feet, ankles, legs, liver, abdomen, and the veins in the neck.
  • Left-side heart failure occurs if the heart can’t pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body.
  • Right-side and left-side heart failure also may cause shortness of breath and fatigue (tiredness).
  • Some people have both right-side and left-side heart failure.
  • Heart failure develops over time as the pumping action of the heart grows weaker.
  • The most common signs and symptoms of heart failure are shortness of breath or trouble breathing, fatigue (feeling tired), and swelling in the ankles, feet, legs, abdomen, and the veins in the neck. All of these symptoms are due to fluid buildup in the body.
  • Early diagnosis and treatment can help people who have heart failure live longer, more active lives. Treatment will depend on the type and stage of heart failure (severity of the condition).
  • Heart failure cannot be cured. You’ll likely need to take medicine and follow a treatment plan for the rest of your life. Heart failure treatments may include lifestyle changes, medicines, ongoing care, and medical procedures or surgery.
  • Despite treatment, your symptoms may get worse over time. Following your treatment plan, taking steps to prevent heart failure from getting worse, and planning ahead can help you stay healthier longer.

Reference: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI)

Last updated March 31, 2017