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What is heart failure?

The heart is designed as a muscular pump to push blood around the body. Heart failure is a condition where the heart cannot pump enough blood to match what the body needs.

There are two reasons heart failure occurs:

  1. Weak heart
    The pump becomes weak and cannot squeeze hard enough (called Heart Failure with Reduced Ejection Fraction, HFrEF).
  2. Stiff heart
    The pump become stiff and cannot draw in enough blood after each squeeze (called Heart Failure with Preserved Ejection Fraction, HFpEF).

Heart failure makes people short of breath, particularly when they walk, resulting in frequent trips to hospital. Almost half a million people in Australia have heart failure, with about 50 per cent of patients in each group at present, with the HFpEF group becoming more common.

When the heart can’t squeeze hard enough, there are several drugs that have been proven to help, as well as special pacemakers and even mechanical hearts. However, there is currently no effective treatment for HFpEF, due in part to how little we understand about the condition.

Video: Dr Shane Nanayakkara explaining heart failure (1min, 48sec)

What are we doing about it?

Our Heart Failure Research laboratory is committed to understanding more about HFpEF. By carefully studying patient's heart function and blood pressure responses during exercise, they are able to confirm the presence of HFpEF. These exercise assessments are conducting using a range of techniques including cardiac ultrasound and heart catheterisation, for which the group is internationally recognised.

From these studies, they have developing models of the disease which allows them to better understand the condition and this has led to the development of novel treatments that are currently under clinical trial.

Support the funding of new research in this area.

For more information on chronic heart failure, visit the Heart Foundation.

To discuss our heart failure research, contact heartfailure@baker.edu.au.