Understanding heart failure

Sandra is 51 years old and is fighting heart failure.


What is heart failure?

Heart failure is a life-threatening, yet potentially treatable condition in which the heart is unable to pump blood around the body properly. This can happen when the heart has become too weak or stiff. It’s a long-term condition which tends to get worse over time, therefore the heart requires support to keep blood flowing. It cannot be cured, but the symptoms in lots of cases can be controlled for many years if diagnosed in the early stages.1

Is 'heart failure' another term for a heart attack?

No! It’s a common misconception that ‘heart failure’ and ‘heart attack’ are two names for the same thing, and while they do share some common causes, they are in fact different.

Most heart attacks happen suddenly, when one of the arteries leading to the heart becomes occluded and cuts off the blood flow. This means the heart muscle doesn’t receive enough oxygen and starts to become damaged. While heart attacks are usually sudden, heart failure tends to develop gradually.

Heart failure can be a long-term (chronic) condition that can gradually get worse, however there are medical treatments and lifestyle modifications that can help to slow progression and improve the quality of life for people living with heart failure.2

Facts and figures

We conducted a survey with the UK general public to understand how familiar people are with heart failure, its symptoms and causes.

40% of the survey
respondents do not know
what heart failure is.
Over 55% wrongly believe
that chest pain is a key
symptom of heart failure.

What can lead to heart failure?

Heart failure can develop for a number of reasons, the most common causes are heart attacks, hypertension (high blood pressure) and cardiomyopathy (a disease of the heart muscle).3 Other reasons can include:4

  • Arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm)
  • Diabetes
  • Heart defects at birth (also known as 'congenital defects')
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Genetic conditions
  • Heart valve defects
  • Some cancer treatments such as chemotherapy
  • Anaemia
  • Thyroid gland disease

Meet people who are fighting failure

Sunil, Sandra, Bob and Ruth have all had a heart failure diagnosis. Read each of their stories to find out the impact heart failure has had on their lives and discover what they have been doing to fight the condition.

Help us fight heart failure

Share what you’ve learnt today and together we can raise awareness of heart failure.

I’ve just learnt about the impact heart failure has in the UK. I’m sharing this so we can all fight heart failure together and improve care across the UK.



Sunil talks about
heart failure

Watch Sunil's documentary to
see how he set out to Fight
Failure to help others.
Watch video

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failure journey after receiving
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  1. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/heart-failure/
  2. WebMD. Difference Between Heart Failure and Heart Attack. Available online at: https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/heart-failure/heartattack-vs-heartfailure#1. Last accessed: September 2020.
  3. British Heart Foundation. Heart Failure. Available online at https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/conditions/heart-failure. Last accessed: September 2020.
  4. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/163062-overview#a4. Last accessed: September 2020.

CVM20-C007d August 2020

Fighting Failure is a disease awareness campaign that has been sponsored and funded by Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK Ltd.

© 2020 Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK Ltd.

Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK Limited is a private limited liability company registered in England and Wales under number 119006 Registered office 2nd Floor, The WestWorks Building, White City Place, 195 Wood Lane, London, W12 7FQ.

Reporting side effects
If you get side-effects with any medication you are taking, talk to your doctor, pharmacist or nurse. This includes any possible side effects not listed in the information leaflet that comes in the pack. You can report side effects via the Yellow Card Scheme at https://yellowcard.mhra.gov.uk/ (UK).
By reporting side effects you can help provide more information on the safety of your medication.

CVM20-C007q August 2020