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Does heart failure mean the heart stops beating?

Heart failure is a chronic medical condition. It does not mean that the heart stops beating. The term heart failure is used to describe a disease in which the heart is not pumping blood efficiently to the rest of the body because the heart has been damaged either by a heart attack, drugs, alcohol or other causes. Because the heart is unable to pump sufficient blood to the rest of the body, the person gets symptoms such as shortness of breath or swelling of the legs.
Deb Cordes
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
Heart failure does not mean the heart has stopped beating. Heart failure is a term used to describe when the heart muscle can no longer pump enough blood to keep up with the demands of the body.
Heart failure is often misunderstood. Many people think heart failure means that their heart will stop beating. If you have heart failure, it means that your heart has lost some of its ability to pump blood.

There are two kinds of heart failure. In the first kind, the heart muscle has weakened and cannot pump enough blood out with each beat. This is called "systolic heart failure." In the second kind, the heart pumps normally but the heart muscle has become stiff. Your heart has lost its ability to relax and does not completely fill with blood. This is called "diastolic heart failure."

Don't be discouraged by the word "failure." For most patients, heart failure cannot be cured, but you can help to keep it from getting worse or even make it better by taking your medicine, eating the right foods, watching your fluids, and exercising. If you take care of your heart, you can feel better and enjoy life more.
Linda Martinez
Cardiac Rehabilitation
Just because a person has heart failure in and of itself doesn't mean the heart stops beating.  However, people with heart failure who have severely reduced pumping function of the left bottom chamber of the heart are at risk for what we call sudden cardiac death (SCD).  When sudden cardiac death occurs, usually the heart goes into an abnormal heart rhythm called ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation.  Either of these rhythm disturbances can cause the heart to pump so badly, that the person passes out and can result in death.  If an automatic external defibrillator (AED) can be applied to a person's chest within a few minutes, a shock can restore normal rhythm.  These AED's are often located in airports, casinos, sports facilities and of course in medical facilities.  Patients at risk often have implantable defibrillators placed.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.