Heart Failure | Gleneagles Hospitals

Heart Failure

Heart failure

Congestive heart failure, commonly referred to as heart failure, is a chronic illness that becomes worse over time. The condition is typically caused by a weakened or stiff heart, which leads to its inability to pump blood as efficiently as it normally would. Blood might back up as a result and fluid may accumulate in the lungs, resulting in shortness of breath and swelling in the legs and feet.

Types of heart failure

  • Left-sided heart failure: Shortness of breath caused by a build-up of fluids in the lungs
  • Right-sided heart failure: Swelling caused by a build-up of fluids in the abdomen, legs, and feet
  • Systolic heart failure: Inability of the heart to effectively pump blood due to the left ventricle contracting weakly
  • Heart failure with preserved ejection fraction: Issues with the filling of the heart due to the left ventricle not being able to relax or to be fully filled.


Heart failure typically develops after other conditions:

  • High blood pressure
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Cardiomyopathy (conditions that affect the cardiac muscle)
  • Problems with the heart rhythm (arrhythmias)
  • Damage or other issues related to the heart valves
  • Congenital heart disease (birth defects)
  • Hyperthyroidism (Overactivity of the thyroid gland)
  • Anaemia
  • Excessive intake of alcohol
  • High pressure in the blood vessels leading to the lungs from the heart (pulmonary hypertension)

Signs and symptoms

  • Shortness of breath following activity or while at rest
  • Congestion of lungs
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Swelling of the legs and ankles caused by water retention
  • Constant coughing
  • Rapid or erratic heartbeat
  • Lightheadedness

Risk factors

  • Conditions including coronary artery disease, heart valve disease, congenital heart disease, heart attack, hypertension, abnormal heartbeats, diabetes, and heart-damaging or weakening viral infections
  • Specific medicines, which include diabetes drugs, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs); certain anaesthesia medicines; and certain medicines used to treat hypertension, blood conditions, cancer, irregular heartbeats, nervous system conditions, mental health conditions, lung and urinary issues, inflammatory diseases and infections
  • Overconsumption of alcohol
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Sleep apnoea (difficulty breathing while sleeping)


  • Evaluation of medical history
  • Evaluation of symptoms and risk factors
  • Blood tests
  • Chest X-ray
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Cardiac computerized tomography (CT) scan
  • Echocardiogram
  • Stress test
  • Coronary angiogram
  • Myocardial biopsy

Treatment options

  • Healthy lifestyle adjustments
  • Medicines
  • Chest-implanted devices to regulate the heart rhythm
  • Surgery e.g., a heart transplant or bypass surgery


Consider changes to your lifestyle that can lower your risk of developing heart disease, such as:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Keeping your hypertension and diabetes (if any) in check.
  • Staying physically active
  • Practising an active lifestyle
  • Keeping a healthy weight
  • Managing stress levels

Visit your nearest Gleneagles Hospital to learn more about our Cardiology Services


  1. Heart failure. Available at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-failure/symptoms-causes/syc-20373142?p=1 [Accessed on 29 April 2022]
  2. Heart failure. Available at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/heart-failure/# [Accessed on 29 April 2022]
  3. Heart failure - Diagnosis. Available at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-failure/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20373148?p=1 [Accessed on 11 May 2022]
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