The term heart failure means that the heart fails to pump enough blood around the body. It is a long-term condition that often gets gradually worse over time.

Heart failure is usually a consequence of conditions that affect the ability of the heart to pump well. Common causes are coronary heart disease and heart attack, cardiomyopathy, and high blood pressure. Other conditions such as arrhythmias, valve disease and congenital heart disease may also cause heart failure. In addition, some non-heart conditions such as thyroid disease and severe anaemia may affect the functioning of the heart and lead to heart failure.


Symptoms of heart failure include shortness of breath, swollen ankles and legs due to fluid build-up, and fatigue.


As heart failure usually develops as a complication of various conditions, the treatment depends on the underlying condition. For example, heart valve surgery may be needed if valve disease is the underlying cause or a pacemaker if arrhythmia is the cause.


Heart failure is a serious condition that can severely affect people’s quality of life and lead to early death. However, although there is no cure for heart failure, medicines can improve symptoms and slow progression. Also, lifestyle changes and exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation can make a difference. Heart transplantation may be an option in some cases of severe heart failure.

Relevant Research

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Through pioneering research and accessible education, Heart Research UK aims to reduce the number of people developing and dying from heart disease, while improving and extending the lives of those affected.

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People with certain types of heart disease have a higher risk of developing serious complications from Covid-19 and there is evidence that the virus can cause damage to the heart.

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