Heart & Circulatory Health

Causes and Management for Heart Failure

Written by Dr. Muhammad Zohaib Siddiq and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.

Image: Causes and Management for Heart Failure


Every organ of our body needs energy to work. This energy is provided by the food we eat and the oxygen we inhale. Food and oxygen are carried to every organ through a medium that is called blood.

Circulation of Blood

Heart is an organ that pumps blood to the whole of our body, including brain, lungs, intestines, kidneys, muscles, skin and itself. Blood carries nutrients and oxygen that are used by these organs to survive.

There are two sides of the heart, which work independently. Left side pumps blood to the whole body through channels called arteries. This blood after providing nutrients and oxygen to organs returns to the heart's right side through channels called veins. Right side pumps blood to the lungs to get oxygen, after taking oxygen blood returns to the heart's left side and the cycle repeats.

Heart Failure

Due to any cause, if the heart's muscles become weak, then heart cannot pump blood to the whole body or lungs properly and the requirement of body and organs are not met. This condition is called heart failure.

Left Heart Failure:

If the left side of the heart fails, then blood cannot be pumped forward to the body. It pools up in the heart, exerts a backward pressure to the lungs and blood accumulates in the vessels of the lungs. This increases the pressure of lung vessels and fluid leaks from vessels and pools outside the vessels. This causes the symptoms of shortness of breath, cough and frothy secretions on coughing.

Right Heart Failure:

In the same way, if the right side of the heart fails, it cannot pump blood to the lungs and blood pools up in backward vessels in the limbs and other organs. When pressure increases, it causes fluid to leak out of vessels and thus it causes swelling of legs, swelling of internal organs such as liver, intestines, etc.

Causes of Heart Failure

  1. The most important and common cause of weakness of the heart is when the heart itself cannot get enough blood as in case of heart attack.
  2. Other causes include any leakage of heart valves or blockage. Sometimes, this condition runs in families; if parents or relatives have it, children may get it. It may also be due to any defect in the development of heart in the womb and thus present since birth; it may manifest just after birth or after many years.

Management of Heart Failure

  • Gravity exerts a detrimental effect, so, doctors advice to keep affected organs propped up.
  • Lying straight on bed will cause increased pooling of blood in the lungs and symptoms will worsen. Legs hanging down will also cause increased swelling in case of right heart failure. So, lying at 45 degrees and keeping legs above the heart level will decrease symptoms.
  • Moreover, doctors give some oral or IV medicines that cause increased urination and negative water balance occurs in the body, then the fluid that has leaked outside the vessels move inside and get excreted in urine.
  • Salt increases the osmolality of body fluids, thus body retains more water instead of excreting it into urine. So, doctors advise to decrease liquid and salt intake.

Heart failure can be fatal if not managed properly and intensively. Serious patients may need admission in a ward or sometimes ICU (intensive care unit) for mechanical ventilation.

For more details about heart and its functions, consult a cardiologist online --> https://www.icliniq.com/ask-a-doctor-online/cardiologist

Last reviewed at: 07.Sep.2018



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