What Is Heart Failure?
Heart failure is a condition in which the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. In some cases, the heart can’t fill with enough blood. In other cases, the heart can’t pump blood to the rest of the body with enough force. Some people have both problems.
The term “heart failure” doesn’t mean that your heart has stopped or is about to stop working. However, heart failure is a serious condition that requires medical care.
How is Heart Failure Diagnosed?
Your doctor will diagnose heart failure based on your medical and family histories, a physical exam, and test results. The signs and symptoms of heart failure also are common in other conditions. Thus, your doctor will:
- Find out whether you have a disease or condition that can cause heart failure, such as coronary heart disease (CHD), high blood pressure, or diabetes
- Rule out other causes of your symptoms
- Find any damage to your heart and check how well your heart pumps blood
Early diagnosis and treatment can help people who have heart failure live longer, more active lives.
A test for B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) or N-terminal pro b-type natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP) is primarily used to help detect, diagnose, and evaluate the severity of heart failure. It can be used, along with other cardiac biomarker tests, to detect heart stress and damage and/or along with lung function tests to distinguish between causes of shortness of breath. Chest X-rays and an ultrasound test called echocardiography(also available in the 4th Practice) may also be performed.
BNP and NT-proBNP are substances that are produced in the heart and released when the heart is stretched and working hard to pump blood. (For more on this, see the “What is being tested?” section.)
Heart failure can be confused with other conditions, and it may co-exist with them. BNP and NT-proBNP levels can help doctors differentiate between heart failure and other problems, such as lung disease. An accurate diagnosis is important because the treatments are often different and must be started as soon as possible.
Please contact your GP who will advise you what to do next.