Heart Failure

Heart failure is a weakening of the heart's pumping power. With heart failure, your body doesn't get enough oxygen and nutrients to meet its needs. Heart failure is the most common hospital admission diagnosis in patients age 65 or older, accounting for more than 700,000 hospitalizations among Medicare beneficiaries every year. It is associated with severe functional impairments and high rates of mortality and morbidity.

Symptoms of heart failure may include:

  • Shortness of breath from fluid in the lungs
  • Swelling (such as in legs, ankles or abdomen)
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Cold or clammy skin
  • A rapid or irregular heartbeat.

Heart failure can be a result of heart condition due to:

  • Hardening of the arteries, also known as coronary artery disease,
  • A heart attack,
  • Cardiomyopathy (heart muscle damage from infection or alcohol or drug abuse)
  • An overworked heart (caused over time by conditions like high blood pressure, kidney disease, diabetes, or a defect from birth).

View our heart failure report card.

More information about heart health:

Key Indicators
Substantial scientific evidence indicates that the following measures represent the best practices for the treatment of heart failure. Higher scores are better.

  • Evaluation of left ventricular systolic (LVS) function
    The proper treatment for heart failure depends on what area of your heart is affected. This indicator can test whether the left side of your heart is pumping properly.
  • ACE inhibitor or ARB for left ventricular systolic dysfunction
    ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) inhibitors and ARBs (angiotensin receptor blockers) are medicines used to treat patients with heart failure and are particularly beneficial in those patients with heart failure and decreased function of the left side of the heart. Early treatment with ACE inhibitors and ARBs in patients who have heart failure symptoms or decreased heart function after a heart attack can reduce mortality from future heart attacks.
  • Discharge instructions
    To help heart failure patients manage the symptoms after they are discharged home from the hospital, they should receive from the hospital written instructions or educational material addressing all of the following: activity level, diet, discharge medications, follow-up appointment, weight monitoring, and what to do if symptoms worsen.
  • Smoking cessation advice/counseling
    Smoking increases the risk for developing blood clots and heart disease that can result in a heart attack, heart failure or stroke. Patients who receive even brief smoking-cessation advice from their physicians are more likely to quit.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Hospital Compare

Additional Resources
To obtain more quality information regarding Heart Failure, please visit the websites: The Joint Commission and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Hospital Compare.