Heart Conditions

The heart is a specialised muscle that pumps blood throughout the body. It pumps blood to itself via the coronary arteries. The rate and rhythm of the heartbeat is controlled by a specialised electrical conduction system. Within the heart chambers, there are heart valves to prevent blood flowing in the wrong direction. Problems arising from any of these heart components (muscle pump, coronary arteries, electrical conduction system, heart valves) can lead to a heart condition that causes significant symptoms and important illness.

Heart Failure

The heart is a specialised muscle that pumps blood throughout the body. Heart failure is present when the heart is no longer able to function as effectively as normal. Conditions that weaken the pumping action of the heart lead to systolic heart failure, whereas conditions that result in the heart not relaxing lead to diastolic heart failure.

There are many medical conditions that can lead to heart failure. Some of these are due to problems within the heart itself (e.g. coronary artery disease, valvular heart disease, and arrhythmias) and some are the result of other medical conditions (e.g. an overactive thyroid gland, infections, side-effects of drugs such as cancer chemotherapy).

The most frequent symptoms of heart failure include shortness of breath, lack of exercise capacity, becoming easily fatigued and tired, and swelling of the legs). However, these symptoms are present in many other illnesses, so if you have any of theses symptoms, it does not always indicate heart failure.

You should visit your GP if you develop any of these symptoms, so that a cause for your symptoms can be determined. Your GP can arrange appropriate blood tests and chest x-ray. 

Your GP might also refer you to Heart Centre St John of God for echocardiogram and cardiologist assessment. Your cardiologist might recommend further specialised tests (e.g. coronary angiogram), depending on the likely cause of your heart failure.