Challenging Heart Failure One Step at a Time

Heart Failure Facts & Answers



What is heart failure?

Heart Failure is a serious condition; however, it does not mean the heart has “failed” or stopped working. It means the heart does not pump blood as well as it should. When you have heart failure, your heart keeps working, but it is weak and unable to pump enough blood and oxygen to support all the organs in the body.


Heart failure in
the United States

  • About 5.7 million people in the United States have heart failure
  • Heart failure is the leading cause of hospitalizations, resulting in over 1 million per year
  • Men and women over the age of 40 have a more than 20% chance of developing heart failure
  • One in 9 deaths in 2009 included heart failure as a contributing cause
  • Roughly half of those who develop heart failure die within 5 years of diagnosis
  • Heart failure costs the nation an estimated $32 billion each year, including the costs of healthcare services, medications, and missed work days

Help us make a difference in the lives of those with heart failure




Heart Failure Risk
Factors & Symptoms



Diseases that damage your heart also increase your risk for heart failure. Some of these diseases include:

  • Coronary artery disease

  • Heart attacks

  • Atrial fibrillation and other rhythm abnormalities

  • High blood pressure

  • Diabetes

  • Obesity

  • Valvular heart disease

  • Chronic kidney disease

  • Sleep disordered breathing

Unhealthy behaviors can also increase your risk for heart failure, especially for people who have one of the diseases listed above. Unhealthy behaviors include:

  • Tobacco use

  • Eating foods high in fat, cholesterol, and sodium

  • Psychological stress

  • Toxins such as alcohol, cocaine, and chemotherapy

  • Not getting enough physical activity


Symptoms of
heart failure

Symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue, swollen legs, and rapid heartbeat.

People may experience:

  • Pain areas: in the chest

  • Cough: can be dry or with phlegm

  • Whole body: dizziness, fatigue, inability to exercise, or loss of appetite

  • Respiratory: fast breathing, shortness of breath at night, shortness of breath on exercise, or shortness of breath on lying down

  • Gastrointestinal: water retention or bloating

  • Also common: excess urination at night, sensation of an abnormal heartbeat, swollen feet, swollen legs, or weight gain

Do something good for your heart and stay active!


About Dr. John Teerlink

Dr. John R. Teerlink,

is Director of the Heart Failure Program and Clinical Echocardiography Laboratory at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center. He was Marc Boriack’s physician, a huge support to the Boriack Family and an integral member of the Challenge Failure team.

Dr. Teerlink graduated from Swarthmore College with Highest Honors in Comparative Religious Studies and Cellular Biology. After receiving his medical degree from Harvard Medical School, where he performed a year of research in the laboratory of Drs. Janice and Marc Pfeffer, he completed an internal medicine residency at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). He continued his basic science training through a post-doctoral research fellowship at Hoffman-LaRoche in Basel, Switzerland with Drs. Martine and Jean-Paul Clozel. Dr. Teerlink completed his cardiovascular medicine fellowship and a Howard Hughes post-doctoral research fellowship at UCSF, subsequently joining the faculty, where he currently is a Professor of Medicine.

He is actively involved in the design and execution of many acute and chronic heart failure clinical trials, serving on endpoint, data safety monitoring, and steering committees for numerous international studies investigating a variety of new therapies, including tezosentan (RITZ program, VERITAS), levosimendan (REVIVE), nesiritide (ASCEND-HF), serelaxin (Pre-RELAX-AHF, RELAX-AHF), rolofylline (PROTECT), omecamtiv mecarbil (CY1111, CY1121, ATOMIC-AHF, COSMIC-HF), warfarin/aspirin (WARCEF), and LCZ696 (PARADIGM-HF). He serves as a consultant on clinical development programs in multiple areas of cardiology, as well as in cardiovascular safety.

Dr. Teerlink has been an active member of the Heart Failure Society of America, serving on multiple committees including the Membership, Scientific Program, Corporate Affairs, and Guideline Committees, and is a founding member of the American Association of Heart Failure Nurses. He has also served on the National Committee on Heart Failure and Transplantation of the American Heart Association. Dr. Teerlink completed a four-year term as a permanent member of the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Cardiovascular and Renal Drugs Advisory Committee, and currently serves as an ad hoc member of multiple other FDA advisory committees and panels for both medical devices and drugs. He is a member of the joint FDA/ Duke University Standardized Data Collection for Cardiovascular Clinical Trials Initiative to develop standardized definitions for cardiovascular endpoints. He was an Associate Editor for the Journal of Cardiac Failure, is currently the Guest Editor-in-Chief for JACC: Heart Failure, and is a clinical scholar presenting many lectures and publications, including a chapter on Acute Heart Failure in Braunwald’s Heart Disease textbook. He was recently profiled in The Lancet as an internationally recognized leader in heart failure.


Stories from the Heart



Challenge Failure was inspired by Marc Boriack. Since our founding, we've had the privilege to be inspired by others afflicted with heart failure.



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