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Heart failure

Heart failure is a serious condition where the heart has difficulty pumping enough blood around the body.

Heart failure occurs when the heart muscle has become too weak or too stiff to pump blood through the body as effectively as normal.

Breathlessness or shortness of breath, feeling very tired and swollen legs, ankles and feet, tiredness and dizziness are the main symptoms of heart failure.

Sometimes the symptoms of heart failure can develop quickly (acute heart failure). However, they usually develop gradually, over time (chronic heart failure).

Heart failure does not usually have a single cause. There are a number of health conditions that increase your risks of developing heart failure including:

Sometimes, anaemia (a lack of oxygenated red blood cells) or an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) can also lead to heart failure.

In most cases, heart failure is a lifelong condition that cannot be cured.

Personal story: heart failure

Being diagnosed with heart failure can be both emotionally and practically challenging. Listening to others who have experienced similar situations is often re-assuring and can be helpful for you, your loved ones or when preparing questions for your doctor or a specialist.

Watch this video about a patient's experience after being diagnosed with heart failure.


Read the related video transcript >

More information about this video >

Video Copyright: ©2013 University of Oxford. Used under licence from DIPEx. All rights reserved.

Last reviewed: September 2016

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