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Heart Failure: Overview and Risk Factors

Heart failure is the inability of the heart to pump enough blood and oxygen to the body’s organs. Although it is primarily a disease of elderly persons, it can develop in anyone with a history of hypertension, heart disease, or diabetes, among other disorders, and affects more than 5 million Americans.

Symptoms of heart failure include shortness of breath, profuse sweating, rapid heartbeat, heart palpitations, and swelling and coolness of the extremities. Patients also have increased shortness of breath when lying back. In advanced cases, fainting, heart arrhythmia, heart attack, or stroke may occur.

Risk Factors 

Compared with white Americans, African–Americans often experience worse outcomes from heart failure and are at greater risk of death. Other risk factors include:

  • Age: The likelihood of heart failure increases with age.
  • History of a heart attack or coronary heart disease
  • History of rheumatic fever or valve disease
  • Hypertension
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Alcohol abuse


Heart Failure: Diagnosis and Treatment >>