Overview

What Is Heart Failure?

Many people mistakenly believe that heart failure means the heart has stopped, or is about to stop. Heart failure simply means the heart, despite working harder, becomes less able to pump essential blood and oxygen to organs and tissue in your body.

Heart failure is a long-term condition that can worsen over time. As the heart’s pumping action weakens, blood backs up into the blood vessels around the lungs and causes seepage of fluid into the lungs. The fluid causes congestion and makes it hard to breathe. Many people with heart failure also have swollen legs and feet. This is why heart failure is sometimes called congestive heart failure.

Women and heart failure

Slightly more women develop heart failure than men, but many more women than men die of the condition. Women have a better survival rate than men when heart failure is caused by valvular heart disease, high blood pressure or alcohol abuse. The survival rates of women and men are more similar, however, when heart failure evolves from coronary artery disease or heart attack. In fact, women are much more likely to develop heart failure after a heart attack than men.


Meet the Heart Failure Team

Northwestern Medicine Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute is a nationally recognized destination for those who require highly specialized cardiovascular care.

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