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Heart failure is a condition in which the heart can no longer pump enough oxygen-rich blood to nourish the body.
Movement of blood through the body is slowed and pressure in the heart is increased. It is often a chronic, long-term condition, but in some cases it occurs suddenly.
Heart failure may affect only one side of the heart, however, the condition more commonly affects both sides. As the heart works to provide enough blood to feed the body, it overextends itself and eventually becomes weakened. The kidneys respond to this condition by causing the body to retain water and sodium. Fluids collect in the arms, feet, ankles and other organs and the body becomes congested - and is termed congestive heart failure.
Heart failure occurs when disease affects the heart in one of the following three ways:
Your heart fills and empties with each beat. The filling process is called diastole and the emptying process is called systole. When the lower chambers (ventricles) of the heart contract, blood pumps out to the rest of the body. After emptying, the heart muscles relax and blood flows from the upper chambers (atria) of the heart into the ventricles.
Both systolic and diastolic heart failure result in the deficiency of oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. The effects are particularly noticeable during exercise or increased activity.
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