The heart is a very important organ that pumps blood to all parts of the body. The heart is often thought of as a large and powerful muscle. It is divided into four chambers which are separated by “doors” or valves.
For the heart to function efficiently, it needs to have:
There are also complex interactions between the heart and the lungs, kidneys, nervous system, hormones and other organ systems.
A normal heart fills with blood when the heart muscle relaxes and then pumps out at least 50% to 70% of the blood when it contracts in a person who is resting. The amount of blood that the heart supplies to the body generally depends on the body’s metabolic or energy demands.
The heart is able to match the body’s energy demands by contracting harder and faster. This increases blood supply (also called cardiac output) to the body whenever it is needed. However, there is a limit as to how much the heart can pump.
When the heart is no longer able to match the body’s metabolic demands, a condition called heart failure (HF) may happen. This most commonly occurs because the heart is unable to function efficiently due to disease or injury. Less commonly, HF happens because the body’s metabolic demands are more than what the heart can cope with, even though the heart may be normal.
There are two main ways by which heart function can become abnormal:
Both conditions eventually cause a decrease in cardiac output and inadequate blood supply to the rest of the body. When this occurs, the body will compensate for the lack of blood supply through a number of ways.
For instance, certain hormones and the nervous system (also known as the neurohormonal systems) become active, making the injured heart contract harder and faster. These systems also cause the kidneys to retain salt and fluid in order to increase blood volume, and also make the blood vessels in the body and limbs become narrower to increase blood pressure. While these processes may initially improve the heart function and cardiac output, in the long run, they damage the body and the heart, particularly if the heart remains injured. Altogether, these processes produce the syndrome of heart failure.
Any one or a combination of these various conditions can cause the heart to function inefficiently:
Heart Failure - Alcohol and Smoking
The heart pumps less blood than normal, to which the kidneys respond by retaining fluids. Excess fluids collect in the body, giving rise to these symptoms:
With proper treatment, heart failure can be controlled. Even if the heart is not functioning normally, the patient can feel better.
Treatment helps to balance the heart’s cardiac output function with the body’s metabolic demands.
However, certain factors may upset this balance and worsen the HF condition. It is important to realize this because many of these factors can be avoided.
By taking certain steps, you can relieve your symptoms and prevent your heart from getting weaker. You can also reduce the risks of complications that may lead to hospitalisation.
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This article was last reviewed on
Wednesday, November 22, 2023
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