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Doctors & Advice

What Is Heart Failure?

October 1, 2021

Poster for video

There are two major types of heart failure.  One type of heart failure results when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to the organs and/or muscles—leaving the patient feeling weak and tired. Another type is caused by insufficient pressure within the heart, which typically causes shortness of breath.  

“So, cardinal manifestations of heart failure end up being shortness of breath or weakness,” says Eric Velazquez, MD, chief of Cardiovascular Medicine for Yale Medicine.  

There are many ways to prevent heart failure—and, when it does develop, many ways to treat it. A first step is always to try to determine how the patient developed the condition. Is it due to a weaker, or perhaps stiffer, heart? What are the risk factors in the patient’s life that led to heart failure?  

Heart failure treatment has evolved significantly in recent decades. “Heart failure is no longer a death sentence,” Dr. Velazquez says. “It is a high-risk clinical syndrome, but with careful attention and care, we provide treatments and pathways for patients to mitigate the risk and prolong life in a way that was only a dream when I started.”  

Dr. Velazquez adds that it is important for patients with shortness of breath and increasing fatigue to consider that their symptoms might not be due to just aging.  

“We have so much more to offer if we can diagnose people earlier,” Dr. Velazquez says.  

In this video, Dr. Velazquez discusses the causes of and treatments for heart failure.