close up of a heart and stethoscope

Living with Heart Failure

We all know that our heart is an essential part of our body—it pumps blood and oxygen to support organs throughout our body. However, heart failure occurs when the heart can’t pump enough blood and oxygen.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 6.2 million adults in the United States have heart failure. While it is a serious condition, it’s still possible to live a full and active life with the right medical treatment and lifestyle, and Heart Failure Awareness Week serves as a time to promote heart failure awareness, education and prevention.

As with many other medical conditions, recognizing the symptoms of heart failure and getting an early diagnosis can improve your quality and length of life. Common symptoms of heart failure include:

  • shortness of breath during daily activities
  • having trouble breathing when lying down
  • weight gain with swelling in the feet, legs, ankles or stomach
  • generally feeling tired or weak

Medical Treatment

Heart failure treatment varies for each person and depends on the type and stage of the condition. Generally, treatment of this chronic condition includes a combination of medication, lifestyle changes and surgical procedures.

The goal of medications, such as ACE inhibitors and beta-blockers among others, is to reduce the symptoms of heart failure and help your heart function better. Surgical devices and procedures—such as cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) or a left ventricular assist device (LVAD)—can also help your heart function better.

Lifestyle Changes

While certain medical conditions can increase your risk for heart failure, unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, eating foods high in fat, cholesterol and sodium, not getting enough physical activity, and excessive alcohol intake can also increase your risk.

Once diagnosed with heart failure, addressing some of these unhealthy behaviors is essential to manage the condition and your quality of life. Frequent lifestyle changes for heart failure include reducing sodium in your diet, drinking less liquids and getting daily physical activity.

Your health care provider will likely use a multi-disciplinary approach with a health care team that includes physicians, nursing staff, dieticians and others working together to meet your changing needs.

The Division of Cardiology at UTMB Health has providers available to help you or a loved one address heart failure. To learn more or find a provider near you, visit

Tips sourced from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.