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5 Heart Problems You Should Know About

        Health | Heart

Heart Failure
Surgeons perform a coronary bypass operation.
Surgeons perform a coronary bypass operation.
William F. Campbell/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

A diagnosis of heart failure may be a bit confusing to hear; after all, if your heart fails, then how can you still be alive? Heart failure doesn't mean that your heart flunked and took the grade of an F; instead, your heart has a C or a D when compared to A+ hearts, and it's just not working as well as it should.

The human heart is tasked with pumping blood throughout the body, and when the heart begins to fail, the body tries to find workarounds so that it can still meet its goals. For example, the heart may start pumping the blood more quickly or get bigger so that it can pump blood more strongly. Your blood vessels may narrow so that a weakened flow still produces adequate blood pressure. Unfortunately, though, the heart will eventually have to throw in the towel, and valuable treatment time may be lost if the workarounds disguised the true problems. The main symptoms of heart failure include fluid retention and swelling (the kidneys, deprived of blood, hold onto water and sodium) and shortness of breath.

Heart failure has many causes, from high blood pressure to diabetes to damaged heart muscle. One major cause? You'll find it on the next page.