What is Heart Failure?
At Mount Sinai Fuster Heart Hospital, we see many patients who have experienced heart failure. Heart failure is when your heart is too weak to properly pump and circulate blood throughout your body. The heart's main function is to pump blood and oxygen throughout our body. To do so, it uses two small upper chambers (atria) and two large lower chambers (ventricles).
There are a number of risk factors for heart failure, including but not limited to:
- Coronary artery disease
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Previous heart attack
- Heart valve disease
- Abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmia)
- Congenital heart defects
- Kidney disease
- Having given birth: Postpartum heart failure is a rare, but serious complication that may occur in women in the last weeks of pregnancy or during the first few weeks after delivery. If a woman has had postpartum cardiomyopathy, she is at risk for recurrence if she becomes pregnant again.
Stages of Heart Failure
Heart failure is categorized in several ways, all of which add important pieces of information of the challenge of diagnosis and treatment. The American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association practice guidelines outline the following stages of heart failure:
- Stage A: You have no symptoms but have risk factors for heart failure.
- Stage B: You have no symptoms, but have structural heart disease.
- Stage C: You have both symptoms of heart failure and structural heart disease.
- Stage D: You have symptoms of advanced heart failure as well as end-stage disease.
We also follow The New York Heart Association Functional Classification System which describes symptomatic stages of heart failure based on level of capable daily physical activity:
- I: You have no symptoms either at rest or with exertion.
- II: You display symptoms with mild exertion.
- III: You experience symptoms with less than normal exertion.
- IV: You have symptoms when you are at rest.