Understanding heart failure

Heart failure may sound alarming, but it doesn't mean that your heart has “failed”

Heart failure is the term doctors use when your heart is unable to pump enough blood to the body or your heart cannot fill properly with blood. Heart failure can affect the left or right side of the heart. Most people have left side heart failure and that is what this website focuses on. Although heart failure requires lifelong management and monitoring, there are many things you can do to still live your life whole-heartedly.

There are two types of heart failure :
 

1. Heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF)

  • The heart is weak and does not contract forcefully enough

  • Therefore, the heart is not able to pump enough blood around the body

2. Heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF)

  • The heart contracts well but is too stiff and does not relax enough to fill sufficiently with blood

  • Therefore, the heart is not able to pump enough blood around the body

Know your symptoms

Early diagnosis, lifestyle changes and appropriate treatments can help you lead a normal and active life,
stay out of hospital and live longer. But it's important to know the symptoms and keep an eye on them.

The symptoms of heart failure can be confused with other health issues,
so it is important to make sure you mention all of your symptoms to your doctor.

5 signs of possible heart failure

hearty sleep

Needing to sleep propped up on pillows so you can breathe at night

If you have breathlessness while lying flat at night it may be due to heart failure which can cause fluid to build up in the lungs.

hearty stairs

Finding you are short of breath doing day-to-day activities like walking up stairs

If you find you have shortness of breath doing day-to-day activities this may be due to heart failure which can cause fluid to build up in the lungs.

hearty feet

Having swollen feet or ankles

If you have swollen feet or ankles it may be due to fluid retention. This can make your shoes tight and uncomfortable.

hearty cough

Persistent coughing without having a cold (dry and hacking cough)

Coughing is the body's way of clearing the fluid that has built up in the lungs.

hearty garden

Having to say no to hobbies and activities you used to enjoy (e.g. gardening, playing with grandchildren or walking the dog)

If you feel too tired or exhausted to do day-to-day activities it may be due to heart failure which can make it harder for the body to get the oxygen it needs.

Speak to your doctor about your symptoms
if heart failure is stopping you from living whole-heartedly.

If any of your symptoms are severe or if you gain more than 2kg in 2 days,
please consult your doctor as soon as possible.

Keeping track of how you feel

The key to living better with heart failure is talking openly with your doctor.

Below is a simple tracker to help you monitor the impact of heart failure on your life. Once you have tracked your symptoms you can use the Talking to your doctor guide below to help you talk to your GP about them.
Use the questionnaire below to assess how you feel and record your results. Click on the answer that is most appropriate for you and click Finish. You will then be shown your tracker with your responses filled out, which you can print and take with you to discuss with your doctor at your next appointment.

If any of your symptoms are severe or if you gain more than 2kg in 2 days, please talk to your doctor.

TIP: You can also download this symptom tracker to help monitor how your symptoms impact your life.

More information

If you would like more information about heart failure the resources below may help.
They cover living with heart failure, talking to your doctor and the common symptoms of heart failure.

moreinfo1

Know your symptoms

This short summary covers the 5 possible signs and symptoms of heart failure to be aware of and discuss with your doctor.

moreinfo2

Talking to your doctor

This guide contains useful tips and information on discussing how you are feeling with your doctor. It includes advice on what to do before, during and after your appointment.

moreinfo3

Living whole-heartedly: A guide for living with heart failure

This booklet has been specially developed to provide more information on heart failure, what it is, how it is treated and how to monitor and live with this condition.

For more information about heart failure speak to your doctor.