Frequently asked questions

This section contains some of the questions and concerns that people often have about heart failure and its management.

Click on any of the questions below for a general answer. If you can’t find the question you’re looking for, it may be listed in the section on Questions to ask your doctor.

For answers more specific to you and your condition you should talk to your doctor or other health care provider.

About heart failure

What is heart failure?

How common is heart failure?

Who gets heart failure?

Is heart failure just a normal consequence of getting old?

How serious is heart failure?

Can heart failure be cured?

How long will I live with heart failure?

What causes heart failure?

Signs and symptoms

What are the symptoms of heart failure?

I get very breathless at night. How can I improve this?

I have noticed that I am gaining weight. What should I do?

I have noticed that I am losing weight. What should I do?

I have lost my appetite. What should I do?

I need to get up in the night to go to the toilet. How can I stop this?

When should I seek urgent medical assistance?


How is heart failure diagnosed?

What tests will I have and why?


How should I change my diet?

What should I avoid eating?

Should I limit how much fluid I drink?

How much salt can I have?

Do I have to stop drinking alcohol?

Where can I find more information on healthy recipes?

Do I have to stop exercising?

What types of exercise are safe?

How much exercise should I take?

Can I still lift my grandchildren?

Do I have to stop smoking?


Will I need to take medicines for the rest of my life?

How can I make taking my medicines simpler?

Will natural remedies or nutritional supplements help my heart failure?

What happens if I miss a dose?

How do I know if I need a device such as a pacemaker, CRT or ICD?

Do I have to have an operation under general anaesthetic to have a pacemaker / ICD / CRT fitted?

Will I need surgery now that I have been diagnosed with heart failure?

Should I participate in a clinical trial?

Living with heart failure

Can I still have sex?

Is it safe for me to drive?

Am I still able to work?

Is it safe for me to fly?

Will I be able to live a normal life after receiving a device?

Will I be able to get travel insurance now that I have heart failure?

Is it safe for me to have vaccinations?

How can I tell my family that I have heart failure?

Where can I get more support?


What are the best ways I can help someone with heart failure?

How can I get some support?

ESC Guidelines for Heart Failure

What patients need to know

This guide for patients from the European Society of Cardiology aims to provide an overview of the latest evidence-based recommendations for the diagnosis and treatment of heart failure.

In particular, it should help patients to understand the:

  • main types of heart failure
  • medicines used to treat heart failure
  • devices that may be appropriate
  • importance of rehabilitation
  • management by a multidisciplinary team
  • importance of self-care in managing your own condition

Learn more


A series of 9 simple, captivating animations explaining heart failure and its treatment.

These narrated animations explain how a healthy heart works, what happens to it in heart failure and how various treatments work to improve your health.


In this section you can watch, listen or read interviews with other people with heart failure and their caregivers.


and share your own views and experiences with other patients, families and caregivers. is a European Society of Cardiology website

The website was developed under the direction of the Heart Failure Association of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC). The ESC is a world leader in the discovery and dissemination of best practices in cardiovascular medicine. Our members and decision-makers are healthcare professionals who volunteer their time and expertise to represent professionals in the field of cardiology in Europe and beyond.

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