Heart Failure occurs when the heart cannot pump blood efficiently to the body. Either the heart cannot fill with enough blood, it cannot pump with enough force, or sometimes both. Approximately 5.7 million people in the United States have heart failure.

Also Known As

  • Congestive heart failure
  • Left-side heart failure
  • Right-side heart failure
  • Cor pulmonale



  • The heart cannot pump enough blood to the lungs to pick up oxygen
  • Symptoms: fluid build up (edema) in the feet, ankles, legs, liver, abdomen, and the veins in the neck; shortness of breath; fatigue


  • The heart cannot pump enough blood to the body
  • Symptoms: shortness of breath; fatigue

Cor Pulmonale:

Right-side heart failure caused by high blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries and right ventricle (lower right heart chamber).

Causes of Heart Failure

Diseases that damage or overwork the heart:

Risk Factors


  • Control blood pressure, cholesterol. 
  • Stay at a healthy weight. 
  • Eat a healthy diet. 
  • Get regular exercise. 
  • Limit alcohol. 
  • Don’t smoke. 
  • Manage stress.
  • Manage diabetes. 
  • Make sure that you get enough sleep. 


The CDC recommends that all adults receive:

  • Seasonal flu vaccine (yearly)
  •  Tdap vaccine once, and then a Td (tetanus, diphtheria) booster shot every 10 years.

Heart disease can make it harder to fight off certain diseases or make it more likely to have serious complications from certain diseases. The CDC recommends people with cardiovascular disease also receive:

  • Pneumococcal vaccine (protects against pneumonia)
  • Zoster vaccine (protects against shingles)

COVID-19 and Heart Failure

The American Heart Association advises caution. Based on current knowledge, if infected, elderly people with coronary heart disease are more likely to develop severe symptoms. The CDC has stated that anyone with an underlying health condition (including those with serious heart conditions) is at higher risk for severe illness.

  • Coronavirus: What heart and stroke patients need to know (video)


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