It is the inability of the heart to pump enough blood to meet the body's needs. Heart failure has a dual effect. In addition to having areas that do not receive blood, there are others in which it remains pooled as could happen in the lungs or, for example, oedemas could form in the ankles that will appear swollen. In general, heart failure starts in the left ventricle, but it may also affect the right ventricle or both sides of the heart.
The problem may be because the heart itself is not able to pump the necessary blood or it can be caused by the narrowing of the arteries or due to poor functioning of the valves.
The most common reasons for heart failure occurring are:
- Having suffered angina pectoris (chest pain) or a myocardial infarction (heart attack).
- Valve diseases: These are conditions in which the heart valves do not control the flow of blood properly.
- Arrhythmias: heart rhythm disorders, both bradycardia and tachycardia (slow or fast pulse, respectively)
- Problems in the heart muscle: Stiffness or dilation of the ventricles due to complications such as high blood pressure.
A person with heart failure will have difficulty breathing, in particular if they are lying down, they will be tired, have a poor appetite, their pulse with be faster than normal and irregular, they will commonly have swollen ankles, etc.
We distinguish between chronic heart failure, in which the symptoms present and worsen gradually, and acute heart failure in which the symptoms appear suddenly and abruptly.
- Vasodilators: When the vessels are larger, this improves blood flow and the heart's effort is reduced
- Beta-blockers: These counteract the action of adrenalin, especially on the heart, which will beat more slowly and the need for oxygen will be decreased.
- Calcium-channel blockers: By decreasing the calcium that reaches the arteries, the gradual narrowing of them is partly prevented.
- Aldosterone inhibitors: Aldosterone is a hormone that exacerbates HF. By inhibiting this hormone, lung congestion and oedemas are reduced.
- Thrombolytic agents: These drugs help to dissolve blood clots.
- Digitalis: These reduce the accumulation of fluid in the heart. The most well known is digoxin.
- Diuretics: These make it possible to remove excess accumulated fluid in patients with heart failure.