Heart failure is when your heart isn’t strong enough to pump your blood effectively.

What is heart failure?

Heart failure means that your heart muscle doesn't pump as much blood as your body needs. This can cause fluid to pool in your lungs, ankles or legs.

Watch this video about heart failure to learn more.

What are the symptoms of heart failure?

You may experience the following symptoms during heart failure:

  • Increased shortness of breath, especially when lying flat
  • Sudden gain of more than 1.5 kg (3 pounds) over 1 to 2 days, or 2.5 kg (5 pounds) in a single week
  • Bloating or feeling full all the time
  • Cough or cold symptoms that last for longer than a week
  • Tiredness, loss of energy or extreme tiredness
  • Loss of or change in appetite
  • Increased swelling of the ankles, feet, legs, sacrum (base of the spine) or abdomen (stomach area)
  • Increased urination at night

Learn more about the symptoms of heart failure.

What are the causes of heart failure?

Common causes of heart failure include:

  • Damage to the heart muscle caused by a heart attack
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)

Less common causes include:

  • Heart valves that are not working properly as they are too narrow or leak (heart valve disease)
  • Infection causing inflammation of the heart muscle (endocarditis or myocarditis)
  • Excessive use of alcohol or drugs
  • Diabetes
  • Being obese or overweight
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Heart muscle disease of unknown causes
  • Other medical conditions such as thyroid diseases or anemia

Learn more about the causes of heart failure.

How is heart failure diagnosed?

Your doctor will review your medical history and may order the following tests:

What treatment is available for heart failure?

Your doctor may treat your condition with a combination of medication and lifestyle changes.

Medications include:

Surgery options for heart failure include:

If you also have blocked coronary arteries, you may also have the following surgeries:


The following resources have information about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment for heart failure: