Two Sides of Heart Failure

Loss of heart function due to heart failure can involve the left, right or both sides of the heart.

Two Sides of Heart Failure Heart failure is a serious medical condition, but advances in treatment can slow progression and improve quality of life, while providing new hope to patients and their families.

Left-sided heart failure: The muscle in the left side of the heart weakens so that the heart can’t pump enough blood properly (systolic dysfunction) or stiffens (diastolic dysfunction), so that the pressures in the heart go up. This can result in fluid in the lungs and reduced heart output, making breathing difficult and causing fatigue.

Right-sided, or right ventricular heart failure: When the right side of the heart loses pumping power, it leads to a backup of blood in the veins that results in swelling.

Symptoms of heart failure may include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing when lying down
  • Fatigue
  • Chronic cough
  • Sensation that your heart is racing or beating hard in your chest
  • Swelling in the abdomen and extremities, such as hands, lower legs, ankles and feet

Common causes of heart failure:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Valvular heart disease, including infection of the heart valves
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Substance abuse
  • Genetic abnormalities

Care for heart failure has improved dramatically and although it is a chronic problem, people with the condition can live long and productive lives by partnering with their physicians to make the recommended lifestyle changes.

For more information or to make an appointment with an RWJBarnabas Health cardiac specialist, visit or call 888-724-7123.