The heart acts as a pump that sends blood through the arteries to the entire body, and it pumps about five litres of blood per minute. Heart failure occurs when the heart can no longer pump enough blood to the organs for the body to work properly. This condition is also called “congestive heart failure,” because blood congests in the veins.
Heart disease rarely occurs for no reason. Its most frequent causes are:
A failing heart still works but is less efficient at its job. When blood pumped into the arteries doesn’t return quickly enough to the heart through the veins, the blood accumulates in the veins and causes edema (swelling). This swelling generally occurs in the ankles and legs, although other areas of the body can swell too. Fluid can sometimes collect in the lungs, which makes it hard to breathe and can cause shortness of breath, especially when you lie down.
The main symptoms of heart failure are:
Your symptoms will vary depending on how well your heart failure is controlled. Well-controlled heart failure has few symptoms, whereas poor control results in more symptoms.
Heart failure is treated with a series of measures to monitor your condition and reduce your symptoms. It’s important to follow all recommendations from your doctor, pharmacist or other health care professional.
Diagnosed heart failure must always be treated or corrected. For example, controlling hypertension or replacing a faulty heart valve can improve the condition. A heart transplant may be required for extreme cases, but this is a last resort.
A number of medications can treat heart failure. Each one is used to improve a specific aspect of the disease. This means that people with heart failure often take multiple medications, as each one has a different and complementary action. You must take these medications as recommended by your doctor and your pharmacist, as the drugs are only effective if taken regularly, at the right time, and in the right way.
Don’t hesitate to consult your pharmacist to learn more about your prescribed medication or for advice about any side effects that you're experiencing. Never stop taking your medication before talking to a health care professional.
Remember! Some over-the-counter (OTC) products are contraindicated for people with heart failure. This means that they can make your disease worse or decrease the effectiveness of your prescribed medication. You should never take anti-inflammatories (ibuprofen). You must consult your pharmacist before using any OTC products such as: