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    Heart Failure Overview

    What Are the Types of Heart Failure?

    Systolic heart failure happens when the heart muscle doesn't squeeze with enough force. As a result, less oxygen-rich blood is pumped throughout the body.

    Diastolic heart failure is when the heart squeezes normally, but the ventricle -- the main pumping chamber -- does not relax properly. This lowers the amount of blood that can enter the heart and raises blood pressure in the lungs. This can lead to fluid in the lungs, legs, and even the belly.

    A test called the ejection fraction (EF) is used to measure how well your heart pumps with each beat to see if you have systolic or diastolic heart failure. Your doctor may mention an ejection fraction. That’s the percentage of blood your heart pumps out with each beat. Your doctor can discuss which condition you have.

    If you have systolic heart failure, your ejection fraction is less than 40%. Imaging studies like an echocardiogram may show the heart is enlarged and pumps out less than a normal amount of blood with each beat. 

    People with diastolic heart failure usually have a normal ejection fraction and normal heart pumping. But an echocardiogram shows that the heart does not fill up with blood properly between beats. 

    Stages of Heart Failure

    In 2001, the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology developed the "stages of heart failure." These stages, which were updated in 2005, will help you understand that heart failure can get worse over time. They will also help you understand why a new medication was added to your treatment plan and may help you understand why lifestyle changes and other treatments are needed.

    Ask your doctor what stage of heart failure you are in.

    Check the table below to see if your therapy matches the recommendations. Note that you can’t go backward in stage, only forward.

    The table below outlines a basic plan of care that may or may not apply to you, based on the cause of your heart failure and your special needs. Ask your doctor to explain therapies that are listed if you do not understand why you are or are not getting them.

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