What is Heart Failure?

Heart failure doesn’t mean the heart has completely failed. It is a condition in which the heart’s muscle gradually loses its ability to pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs.1 This means your blood can’t deliver enough of the oxygen and nutrients that your body requires to function.2 Heart failure may worsen over time, especially if it goes untreated.3

How Does Heart Failure Affect African Americans?

Although anyone can be affected by heart failure, African Americans are at a higher risk for developing the condition when compared to other racial and ethnic groups.4 This may be due, in part, to the presence of other conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.5

What are the Symptoms?

The most common signs of heart failure are6:

  • shortness of breath
  • increased heart rate
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • feeling tired constantly or during everyday physical activity (e.g., household chores)
  • persistent coughing or wheezing
  • impaired thinking (e.g., memory loss, confusion)
  • swelling in the feet, ankles, legs, and/or abdomen
  • weight gain caused by fluid buildup

If you notice these symptoms, it's important to consult your doctor right away.

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1 What is Heart Failure? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Updated November 6, 2015. Accessed March 15, 2016.

2 About Heart Failure. BiDil website. Accessed May 25, 2016.

3 Quick Heart Failure Facts. Heart Failure Society of America website. Accessed March 15, 2016.

4 Bahrami H, Kronmal R, Bluemke DA, et al. Differences in the incidence of congestive heart failure by ethnicity: the multi-ethnic study of atherosclerosis. Arch Intern Med. 2008;168(19):2138-2145.

5 High Blood Pressure and African Americans. America Heart Association website. August 4, 2014. Accessed May 25, 2016.

6 Warning Signs of Heart Failure. American Heart Association website. March 25, 2016. Accessed March 25, 2016.

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