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Heart Failure Explained: Causes, Symptoms, Prevention, and Treatment

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The heart, a powerful tireless organ central to the circulatory system, pumps blood throughout the body, supplying vital nutrients and oxygen. However, certain conditions can weaken the heart’s ability to function effectively, leading to a condition known as heart failure.

Contrary to its name, heart failure doesn’t imply a sudden stopping of the heart. Instead, it refers to a chronic condition where the heart is unable to pump blood effectively, due to either weakened muscles or stiffened heart walls. This diminished pumping efficiency can result in inadequate blood supply to meet the body’s demands.

Specialists at the Heart and Vascular Center of Excellence at Houston Physicians’ Hospital share the intricacies of heart failure, exploring its causes, symptoms, preventive measures, and the array of treatment options available to manage this serious cardiac condition.

Potential Causes of Heart Failure

Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)

The most common cause of heart failure, CAD occurs when the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle become narrowed or blocked, limiting blood flow.

Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

Persistent high blood pressure forces the heart to work harder, eventually weakening the heart muscle and contributing to heart failure.


Diseases that affect the heart muscle, such as cardiomyopathy, can lead to heart failure by causing the muscle to become stiff, thickened, or inflamed.

Myocardial Infarction (Heart Attack)

Damage to the heart muscle resulting from a heart attack can impair its ability to pump blood effectively, increasing the risk of heart failure.

Valve Disorders

Conditions that affect the heart valves can disrupt the flow of blood, putting additional strain on the heart.

Symptoms of Heart Failure

Shortness of Breath

Difficulty breathing or breathlessness, especially during physical activity or when lying down, is a common symptom.

Fatigue & Weakness

Persistent fatigue and weakness can result from the heart’s reduced ability to pump blood and supply the body with energy.

Swelling (Edema)

Fluid retention can lead to swelling in the legs, ankles, abdomen, or other areas of the body.

Rapid or Irregular Heartbeat

Heart palpitations or a sensation of fluttering in the chest may indicate an irregular heartbeat.

Persistent Coughing

Fluid buildup in the lungs can cause a chronic cough, often accompanied by white or pink-tinged phlegm.


A man with a blue shirt wears a blood pressure monitor

Preventive Measures for Heart Failure

Manage Underlying Conditions

Effectively control conditions like hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol through medication, lifestyle changes, and regular medical monitoring.

Adopt a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle

Prioritize a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Engage in regular physical activity and maintain a healthy weight to reduce strain on the heart.

Limit Alcohol & Quit Smoking

Excessive alcohol consumption and smoking can contribute to heart problems. Limiting or eliminating these habits promotes heart health.

A Heart-Healthy Future

Regular checkups with healthcare professionals allow for the early detection and management of risk factors for heart failure. If you want personalized treatment plans to lead a fulfilling life, you can find a cardiologist who’s right for you on our Heart and Vascular Center Of Excellence Spine Center Houston. Scroll down the page, select your doctor, and reach out to them directly to schedule an appointment.

Our Back Surgeons in Houston can assess symptoms and medical history and conduct a physical examination to evaluate your heart function. They can recommend treatment plans, dietary modifications, emotional support, and other lifestyle changes to help you take control of your heart health.