Dr Simon Kennon MB ChB, FRCP, MD Consultant Cardiologist

Heart Failure

Heart failure is when your heart is unable to pump enough blood around the body to provide the organs of the body with the oxygen and nutrients they require.


The commonest cause of heart failure is a heart attack that damages and weakens heart muscle. Other causes are high blood pressure (hypertension) which can put extra strain on the heart; and heart valve disease. “Cardiomyopathy is another cause of heart failure.

Anaemia, thyroid gland dysfunction and abnormal heart rhythms can exacerbate these problems.


The commonest symptom is breathlessness, usually on exertion but also sometimes when lying down. Fatigue is another symptom and ankle swelling (oedema) may also be noted.


Specific causes need to be treated. Heart valves may need to be repaired or replaced; blood pressure may need to be lowered, coronary arteries may need to be unblocked or bypassed. Exacerbating factors also need to be treated.

There are also a number of heart failure treatment medicines which either make it easier for the heart to pump blood around the body or reduce the blood volume. Common types of tablets are ACE inhibitors (Angiotensin Converting Enzyme); ARBs (Angiotensin 2 Receptor Blockers); diuretics; and beta blockers

In addition complex pacemakers can sometimes improve heart function by synchronising heart muscle contraction: Cardiac Resynchronisation Therapy (CRT)