Left-sided heart failure is the most common type of heart failure. There are two main types of left-sided heart failure: diastolic and systolic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that heart failure affects 6.2 million adults in the United States. It’s most common in people 65 years old and over.

If you have heart failure, your heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the demands of the other tissues and organs in your body.

Your outlook and recommended treatment plan depend on the underlying cause of your heart failure as well as the severity of your condition.

If you have left-sided heart failure, the left ventricle or lower left chamber of the heart has difficulty pumping oxygenated blood from the lungs to the rest of the body.

This causes blood to back up in your pulmonary veins, which carry blood from your lungs to your heart.

Left-sided heart failure may cause the following symptoms:

  • fatigue
  • shortness of breath
  • difficulty breathing
  • coughing
  • swelling in the legs

There are two main subcategories of left-sided heart failure: diastolic and systolic. Both affect the left ventricle.

Diastolic heart failure

Diastolic heart failure is also known as heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF).

According to a 2017 review, roughly half of people worldwide with heart failure have diastolic heart failure. And the number of individuals with this type of heart failure is increasing.

In this type of heart failure, the muscle of your left ventricle stiffens and can no longer relax properly. This prevents your heart from filling with enough oxygenated blood from your lungs to pump to the rest of your body.

HFpEF is often linked to:

  • obesity
  • poorly controlled hypertension
  • diabetes
  • obstructive sleep apnea

Systolic heart failure

The same 2017 review estimates that the other half of people with heart failure have systolic heart failure. It’s also called heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF).

In this condition, the muscle of your left ventricle becomes weakened and can no longer contract properly. As a result, your heart doesn’t pump with enough force to push oxygenated blood through your body successfully.

HFrEF is commonly linked to coronary artery disease or blockages in the arteries around the heart.

Right-sided heart failure is less common than left-sided heart failure.

It’s most commonly caused by damage to the right side of the heart due to left-sided heart failure. But it can be caused by other conditions, such as leaky heart valves.

If you have right-sided heart failure, your right ventricle can’t pump enough blood from your heart to be oxygenated by your lungs. As a result, the blood backs up in your veins.

This can push fluid from your veins into surrounding tissues, which may cause swelling in your feet, ankles, legs, or abdomen. Fluid buildup may lead to weight gain.

Right-sided heart failure may also cause:

  • fatigue
  • increased urination
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • weight gain
  • swelling of the legs

Biventricular heart failure affects both sides of your heart. It can cause symptoms of both right-sided and left-sided heart failure, such as:

  • fatigue
  • shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, or coughing
  • swelling in your ankles, legs, abdomen, or other body parts
  • increased urination
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • weight gain

Many people with heart failure can start out with left-sided heart failure and go on to develop biventricular heart failure. This is due to the effects of left-sided heart failure on the right side of the heart.

When heart failure develops over the course of multiple months or years, it’s called chronic heart failure. Most cases of heart failure are chronic.

Chronic heart failure may result from other chronic health conditions or risk factors that weaken or damage your heart.

The odds of developing chronic heart failure increase if you have:

  • high blood pressure
  • coronary artery disease
  • heart valve problems
  • congenital heart defects
  • severe lung disease
  • diabetes
  • obesity
  • sleep apnea

The symptoms of chronic heart failure tend to develop gradually and can be subtle.

It’s important to pay attention to small changes in exercise tolerance and report them to your doctor. Getting early treatment can help improve your outlook.

When heart failure develops suddenly, it’s called acute heart failure. This type of heart failure is less common than chronic heart failure.

Some potential causes of acute heart failure include:

  • heart attack
  • infection or inflammation of your heart
  • side effects from certain medications
  • drug or alcohol misuse
  • genetics
  • blood clots that develop in the pulmonary artery

The symptoms of acute heart failure may develop quickly, over the course of a few hours or days. Common symptoms include:

  • fatigue
  • shortness of breath
  • edema (swelling) in the limbs
  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath when lying down
  • needing extra pillows to sleep on

Acute heart failure is often a life threatening condition. If you think you’re experiencing symptoms of acute heart failure, it’s essential to get treatment right away.

Heart failure may affect the right side, left side, or both sides of your heart. It may change and gradually worsen over time.

To treat heart failure, your healthcare professional may prescribe medications, surgery, or other treatments.

They may also advise changing your diet, fluid intake, exercise routine, or other lifestyle habits. This may help you lead a longer and healthier life with heart failure.

If you notice changes in your symptoms or overall health, let a healthcare professional know.

Contact them immediately if you experience sudden weight gain, swelling in your legs, or other sudden changes in your symptoms.

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