What is a failed heart and how can it be managed?

The need to stay healthy is now more important than ever before, especially when it comes to the heart.

But in today’s stressful times, and amid the pandemic, the heart is negatively impacted. Consequently, the younger generation has become a victim of heart diseases.

Dr Vihang Shah, consultant cardiologist, Pranayam Lung and Heart Institute, Vadodara, tells indianexpress.com that a failed heart occurs when the organ fails to pump blood to other parts of the body. “As a result, the blood often backs up, and the fluid can build up in the lungs, causing difficulty in breathing.”

According to the doctor, heart failure, which is also known as “congestive heart failure”, is a rapidly-growing global issue among people of various age groups. “Heart failure often occurs when other conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, have damaged or weakened the heart. It also develops when the heart muscles become too stiff to pump blood.”

Abnormal heartbeats (arrhythmia) and inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis) are also some of the root causes of heart failure. Certain infections, like Covid, make the heart weak and may lead to this fatal condition, he says.

What are the symptoms and stages of a failed heart?

Dr Shah says heart failure is a progressive condition, and it gets worse over time because the heart’s pumping action grows weaker.

The symptoms include:

* Chest pain
* Shortness of breath
* Fainting
* Fatigue
* Weakness
* Swelling in the limbs
* Rapid or irregular heartbeat
* Persistent coughing or wheezing with a white or pink foamy tinge of blood or mucus
* Swelling of the abdomen
* Rapid weight gain
* Nausea and lack of appetite
* Decreased alertness

Heart failure is a progressive condition, and it gets worse over time because the heart’s pumping action grows weaker. (Photo: Getty/Thinkstock)

Tips to manage heart failure

While there is no permanent cure for heart failure, the doctor says it is possible to manage it effectively through lifestyle modifications, therapy, and medical procedures. “It is recommended you stop smoking, consumption of alcohol and control certain conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes. Since obesity is also one of the root causes of heart failure, it is crucial to manage a healthy weight and follow a balanced diet. Managing stress levels and getting enough sleep helps.”


Identifying it at an early stage can be most beneficial. Depending on the patient’s conditions, medical or surgical treatments are recommended to reduce the risk of sudden death. For advanced heart failure, surgeries, implantable devices such as pacemakers and ICDs (implantable cardioverter-defibrillator) and therapies or even a heart transplant is recommended. Procedures such as left ventricular assist devices (LVAD), which is a battery-operated mechanical pump, helps the left chamber of the heart to pump blood.

It is recommended to watch out for persisting symptoms and get regular check-ups to monitor heart health.

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