As the heart works harder to deliver blood to every part of the body, it gets larger and stretches. Over time, too much stretching causes the heart muscle to weaken and its ability to pump blood is compromised.
The heart's inability to propel blood forward leads to a backup and pooling of blood in the veins that lead up to the heart and arteries in the lungs. This produces the outward symptoms of heart failure, also known as congestive heart failure.
Symptoms of heart failure include swelling (edema) of the legs and ankles and shortness of breath. If you're experiencing these symptoms, it's important to see your physician immediately.