Heart failure

Heart failure is when the heart cannot pump efficiently and is unable to generate sufficient blood flow to meet the demands of the body for oxygen and nutrients, either at rest or during exercise.

Acute heart failure occurs rapidly, typically as a result of heart attack. Chronic heart failure occurs more slowly, building up through time due to disease of the heart or blood vessels leading from the heart.

Symptoms of heart failure

A person with heart failure is usually short of breath even when sitting still; they breathe faster than normal and may 'gasp' for breath if they do anything that requires strength or movement. They often cannot sleep without using many pillows because, if they lie down, the blood that cannot be pumped away from the heart collects in the vessels in the chest, which makes them even more breathless. They also complain of tiredness and weakness.

Can you suggest why people with heart failure gasp for breath and feel tired and weak?

Show answer

The weak heart cannot supply the body with the oxygen it needs, so the person breathes quickly to try to suck more oxygen into their lungs. They feel tired and weak because there isn't enough oxygen or nutrients being pumped around the body.

If you come across a person with the symptoms of heart failure, refer him or her to the nearest health facility as soon as possible.
Last modified: Friday, 4 July 2014, 9:30 AM