Systolic heart failure

Systolic heart failure (SHF)

Description, Causes and Risk Factors:

A person suffers heart failure when the heart's ability to pump enough blood to the entire body is reduced. This does not mean your heart has stopped working or will stop working but that it isn't able to pump blood normally. This is known as congestive heart failure or CHF. There are two main forms of heart failure: one is systolic heart failure and the other is diastolic heart failure. Systolic heart failure is a systolic dysfunction that occurs due to a weakened pump function or contractile impairment. Here your heart's lower chambers become too impaired to contract and pump blood to meet the body's requirements. Nearly 30,000 people die of CHF in the United States every year.

The causes of systolic heart failure are coronary heart disease, hypertension and ageing, valvular heart disease, arrhythmia and dilated cardiomyopathy.

    Coronary heart disease is a result of blocked coronary arteries limiting the flow of blood to your heart muscle, which leads to weakening or damaging of the heart muscle and impairment of the heart muscle's ability to pump blood.

  • Cardiomyopathy is a heart muscle disease that weakens the heart muscle affecting its ability to pump blood normally.

  • Hypertension is elevated pressure in the arteries, which makes the heart work harder as it needs to pump more against the increased pressure, thus weakening the heart muscle.

  • Valvular heart diseases happen when the valves of your heart, which are normally supposed to keep blood flowing in a particular direction in the heart, become faulty. These valves can get damaged due to a coronary heart disease or heart infection, forcing the heart to work harder to let blood flow into the heart, weakening it over time.

  • Arrhythmia is irregular heart rhythm which reduces the effectiveness of the pumping of blood of the heart.

  • Systolic heart failure symptoms, however mild, should be made known to a medical professional. The symptoms to look for are fatigue, shortness of breath or breathlessness, wheezing or chronic cough, nausea or lack of appetite, irregular or rapid heartbeat, swelling, fluid buildup, weight gain and memory loss or disorientation.

Risk Factors:

    Smoking and alcoholism.

  • Cocaine use.

  • High blood pressure.

  • High cholesterol.

  • Mitral valve prolapse.

  • Diabetes.

  • Obesity.

  • Family history of CAD.

  • High salt intake.

  • Vitamin-poor diet.

  • Male.

  • Older age.

In systolic heart failure approximately 50% of deaths are sudden and the rate of sudden death in systolic heart failure is 6 to 9 times higher compared with that in the general population.


    Shortness of breath (dyspnea) when you exert yourself or when you lie down.

  • Fatigue and weakness.

  • Swelling (edema) in your legs, ankles and feet.

  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat.

  • Reduced ability to exercise.

  • Persistent cough or wheezing with white or pink blood-tinged phlegm.

  • Swelling of your abdomen (ascites).

  • Sudden weight gain from fluid retention.

  • Lack of appetite and nausea.

  • Difficulty concentrating or decreased alertness.


It is difficult to tell the difference between systolic and diastolic heart failure based on medical history and a physical examination alone. The main difference between these two forms of heart failure is that a patient with systolic heart failure pumps a less-than-normal amount of blood out of the heart with each heartbeat. This is measured by ejection fraction, the percentage of blood pumped—or "ejected"—out of a filled pumping chamber (ventricle) during each heartbeat.

Your doctor will order an echocardiogram. He/she will check the size of your heart's left pumping chamber and its pumping (systolic) and filling (diastolic) ability. He will check your ejection fraction (EF). A normal ejection fraction is 50% or higher, meaning 50% or more of the total blood in the main pumping chamber (left ventricle) is pumped out during each heartbeat.Women tend to have a higher ejection fraction than men.Ejection fraction can be measured with a nuclear ventriculogram or cardiac MRI, but Doppler echocardiography is the primary diagnostic test used to measure ejection fraction.


The aim of treating systolic heart failures is to reduce symptoms, decrease the development of the ailment and help improve the quality of life. Systolic heart failure treatment is usually a combination of three types of medication, which usually consists of an angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor (ACE) or angiotensin receptor blocker (ARB), a diuretic and a beta-blockers. ACE inhibitors help reduce symptoms and blood pressure, and also improve the clinical status and overall well-being of the patient. ARB drugs are given if the patient cannot manage the side effects of coughing. A diuretic controls and relieves fluid buildup in the limbs and lungs and a beta blocker lowers blood pressure, slows your heart rate and the progression of the ailment to improve survival. Systolic heart failure treatment can also include surgery if necessary, such as a heart valve repair or a coronary artery bypass graft. Implantable devices such as a defibrillator and a pacemaker, that control irregular heart rhythms can also be used and, for severe heart failure, a heart transplant might be needed.

NOTE: The above information is educational purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.

DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.


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