Heart failure reduces your heart’s pumping ability so less blood reaches your muscles. This lack of oxygen and nourishment causes your muscles to get tired much more quickly.

In addition, the reduced pumping ability results in congestion in the lungs which in turn causes shortness of breath. Some patients find it difficult to distinguish between tiredness/fatigue and shortness of breath. Increasing tiredness on effort or during activity is more likely related to heart failure.

You may be able to reduce how tired you get by exercising. Moderate exercise and exercise training may help improve your symptoms. In contrast to what many people believe, exercise is considered beneficial in patients with heart failure. Exercise also reduces stress and boosts your energy levels.

Click here to learn more about when to exercise and what to do.

You may also find techniques to conserve energy will help you to understand what you can do and ensure you have sufficient energy to do the things you really enjoy.

Return to Symptoms

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.

heartfailurematters.org is a European Society of Cardiology website

The heartfailurematters.org 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.

Back to top