Heart failure does not mean the heart has ceased working but it means that the heart’s pumping power is abnormal. With heart failure, blood moves through the heart and body at a slower rate, and pressure in the heart increases. As a result, the heart cannot pump enough oxygen and nutrients to meet the body’s needs. The chambers of the heart respond by stretching to hold more blood to pump through the body or by becoming stiff and thickened.
This helps to keep the blood moving for a short while but, in time, the heart muscle walls weaken and are unable to pump as strongly. As a result, the kidneys often respond by causing the body to retain fluid (water) and sodium. If fluid builds up in the arms, legs, ankles, feet, lungs, or other organs, the body becomes congested, and congestive heart failure is the meaning used to describe the condition.