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Heart failure may be a misnomer because the organ hasn’t failed. However, congestive heart failure is a serious condition because the heart pumps more weakly and less efficiently than it should. Heart failure often develops as the result of coronary artery disease or hypertension, which exact a toll on the heart’s ability to function properly.
In congestive heart failure, the heart’s pumping chambers, called ventricles, are unable to either contract or relax fully. The ventricle can become stretched, and the heart's ability to pump blood to the rest of the body is impaired. Blood congests, or backs up, into other parts of the body, such as the lungs, liver or legs. There are several types of heart failure located in any of the heart’s chambers, but most often the disease originates in the left ventricle. Faulty heart valves, arrhythmia and heart muscle damage (cardiomyopathy) also lead to heart failure.