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​Heart failure happens when your heart cannot pump enough blood to meet your body's needs. A common type of heart failure called congestive heart failure occurs when the condition stops your kidneys from ridding your body of extra salt. When this happens, your body retains fluid. This can cause your legs, ankles, and midsection to swell. Fluid can also build up in your lungs. This makes breathing difficult. More than five million people in the United States have heart failure. Approximately 670,000 people are diagnosed with heart failure every year.

Heart failure symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Swelling of the legs, ankles, feet, and midsection
  • Fatigue

Heart failure can have many causes. The most common causes are heart attack and narrowing of the arteries that bring blood and oxygen to the heart. This is called coronary artery disease (CAD) or coronary heart disease. Heart failure can also be caused by other heart ailments, such as heart valve disease, some heart rhythm problems, and heart problems that start before or at birth (called congenital).

Heart failure treatment depends on the cause. If heart failure is caused by blockages in the coronary arteries, your cardiologist may suggest a type of open heart surgery to bypass the blockages. This is known as coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG)​ or heart bypass surgery. If heart valves are causing the problem, they can be repaired or replaced by valve surgery. 

Often, heart failure is a long-term condition with no cure. However, the condition can be managed successfully. The goals of treatment are to improve quality of life through medication and by helping patients make the lifestyle changes that can improve heart health. For information and dietary tips to help manage heart failure through nutrition modifications, visit our "Eating Smart for a Healthy Heart" webpage and watch videos designed to help modify your diet in heart-healthy ways. Additionally, Baylor Scott & White The Heart Hospital – Denton's sister hospital, Baylor Scott & White The Heart Hospital – Plano, offers outpatient center heart failure services. Visit the webpage for the Congestive Heart Failure Center​ for details.

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