Heart Failure Myths & Facts

You've probably heard a lot of things about heart failure. But there’s a chance not all of it is true.

Myth: Heart failure means your heart has stopped working.

Heart failure doesn't mean your heart isn't beating. It still works, but it can't pump all the blood your body needs. You can have heart failure on just one side of your heart or on both sides. Your heart is still pumping, just not as strong as it should.

Myth: Heart failure can't be treated.

Drugs, surgery, and implanted devices like pacemakers can treat heart failure. But it's also very important to make smart lifestyle changes. These include:

Myth: You can't prevent heart failure.

Just like heart disease in general, you can control some things that can lead to heart failure. But others you can't. You can't help your age or your medical history, but you can change some habits. For example:

  • Limit the alcohol you drink.
  • Don't smoke.
  • Get any medical conditions under control.
  • Work to manage stress.
  • Follow a heart-healthy diet.
  • Exercise.

Myth: Heart failure is the same as a heart attack.

During a heart attack, the blood supply to your heart is cut off. It's often brought on by a buildup of plaque in your arteries or by a blood clot. With heart failure, your heart isn't pumping as much blood as your body needs.

A heart attack can be one of the causes of heart failure, but they're not the same thing.

Myth: You should take it easy if you have heart failure.

When you find out that you have heart failure, you might be afraid to do too much. But regular movement is part of a heart-healthy lifestyle. Talk to your doctor to find out how to ease into a good exercise plan for you. Yes, it's key that you don't do too much. But the right exercise plan will strengthen your heart muscles, help blood flow, and ease symptoms.

Myth: Only older people get heart failure.

Heart failure is more common in people over 65, but children and younger adults can get it. The symptoms and treatment can vary depending on your age.

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Myth: There are no warning signs for heart failure.

There are several symptoms of heart failure. Alone, they may not seem like a big deal. But when you have more than one, they can signal something serious. Symptoms include:

Once you've been diagnosed, it's very important to keep track of your symptoms and tell your doctor about any changes.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Suzanne R. Steinbaum, MD on August 15, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: "Heart Failure."

Penn Medicine: "5 Scary Myths About Heart Failure."

MayoClinic: "Heart Failure."

Cedars-Sinai: "Heart Attack, Cardiac Arrest, Heart Failure—What’s the Difference?"

WVU Medicine: "Heart Failure: 7 Myths and Facts That May Surprise You."

HeartFailureMatters.org: "Myths and Facts About Heart Failure."

American Heart Association: "Warning Signs of Heart Failure."

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