Heart failure

Heart failure

Heart Failure is a heart disease that affects its ability to pump blood and make the body work. 
Discover its causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.

What is heart failure?

The Heart Failure (HF) is a chronic, degenerative disease of the heart that prevents it has sufficient capacity 
to pump blood and therefore do to get enough oxygen and nutrients to other organs. It can manifest at any age, 
although the probability of suffering increases with age. According to its form of manifestation, it is classified as:

Chronic Heart Failure:

The disease gradually manifests, but the symptoms intensify with the passage of time. It is the most frequent.

Acute Heart Failure:

The symptoms appear suddenly and are serious from the beginning. With proper treatment, patients can quickly improve. IC generates fatigue, because the heart can not distribute enough blood that the body needs. In addition, it can cause a buildup of blood, which can leave the blood vessels and congest the lungs.

Causes of heart failure

Having suffered a cardiovascular event can leave sequels, such as, for example, the appearance 
of Heart Failure. The IC can occur after suffering …

  • Myocardial Infarction or a Breast Angina
  • Diseases of the heart muscle
  • Diseases of the heart valves
  • An arrhythmia, such as atrial fibrillation

Symptoms of heart failure

Symptoms can vary from one person to another, depending on the degree of the disease. 
The most common are:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue and muscle fatigue
  • Fluid retention and swelling in the ankles, legs and abdomen
  • Loss of appetite
  • Confusion, dizziness and in some cases, loss of consciousness
  • Dry cough
  • Tachycardia and palpitations faster than normal
  • Little tolerance to exercise, due to fatigue

Diagnosis of heart failure

To diagnose IC, the doctor will analyze your medical history from:

  • Risk factor’s
  • Antecedents of events of chest angina or myocardial infarction
  • Family history of cardiomyopathies or other valvular diseases
  • Recent infections
  • Alterations of the heart rhythm

In some cases, the doctor will be able to detect HF only with an exploration of the heart, 
auscultation of the lungs and palpation of the abdomen and lower extremities. In other cases 
(the great majority), complementary tests will be necessary, such as:

Stress tests

It allows analyzing the response of the heart when performing continuous exercise on a treadmill 
or static bicycle. It detects cardiovascular alterations that are not visible when the patient is at rest.


It allows recording the electrical activity of the heart and is a simple and painless test. The evaluation can be 
complemented with the Holter device, which allows to perform an electrocardiogram and record, during 24 or 48 hours, 
the functioning of the heart while carrying out the usual activities.


It is the most effective test, since it provides immediate information on the functioning of the heart. 
It is painless and allows to obtain images of the heart in movement, to evaluate its shape, the state of the valves, 
atria and ventricles and their functioning.

Complete blood analysis

Particularly of the levels of the natriuretic peptides, hormones that possess diuretic and vasodilating properties.

Treatment of heart failure

There are several effective treatments for HF that delay the progression of the disease, improve 
the quality of life and lengthen the survival of the affected person.


  • Vasodilators: They relax the blood vessels and increase the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart, reducing their workload.

  • Aldosterone inhibitors: They block the effects of aldosterone, a hormone that aggravates IC. Improve survival in patients 
    with decreased heart function.

  • Beta-blockers: They reduce blood pressure and improve blood circulation. The heart needs less strength to beat, with the use of these drugs.

  • Digitálicos: They reduce the accumulation of liquid in the heart. The best known is digoxin.

  • Statins: Reduce cholesterol levels in the blood.

  • Diuretics: They allow to eliminate the excess of liquids and sodium from the body. They help relieve the workload of the heart.

  • Ivabradine: Reduces heart rate and may be beneficial in some cases of HF.



  • Introduce healthy habits and lifestyles that allow control of cardiovascular risk factors .



  • Pacemaker: Metallic device implanted under the skin that helps the heart maintain its heart rate.
  • Implantable Automatic Defibrillator (ICD): It sends an electric shock to the heart at the moment that detects a dysfunction 
    in the cardiac rhythm, avoiding a stop.
  • Cardiac Resynchronization: Device that emits small, painless electrical signals that stabilize the heartbeat.

Surgical treatment:

  • Bypass or angioplasty: Both surgical treatments that eliminate the blockage of the arteries and improve blood flow. 
    More information on Treatment of Myocardial Infarction .
  • Valvular replacement surgery: Replacement of the valve of the damaged heart by an artificial or by a human or animal tissue.
  • Heart transplant: If the patient does not improve with the previous treatments, the heart transplant could be considered.