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What Are The Four Heart Failure Classifications?

February 9, 2021

Heart Failure Awareness Week is February 14-20. It’s an initiative that encourages you to take an active role in maintaining your heart health. This includes maintaining a healthy diet and exercising.

But during Heart Failure Awareness Week, you’ll also be encouraged to get regular checkups and educate yourself about the signs and symptoms of heart failure. That’s because heart failure is a major public health problem in the United States. Nearly 5 million people in America are living with it, and nearly 500,000 others are diagnosed with heart failure for the first time each year.

So, let’s take a look at heart failure classifications, and how serious they are, according to the American Heart Association.

The Problems Heart Failure Can Create

Heart failure can create a domino effect of health problems. These include:

  • Insulin resistance
  • Inflammation
  • Deterioration of heart function

It can lead to the development of diabetes, cancer and certain age-related diseases, including heart disease.

Heart Failure Symptoms

Common symptoms of heart failure include:

  • Shortness of breath during daily activities
  • Having trouble breathing when lying down
  • Weight gain with swelling in the feet, legs, ankles or stomach
  • Generally feeling tired or weak

If you’re diagnosed with heart failure you’ll be asked to track your symptoms each day so you can report back to your healthcare provider.   

Risk Factors For Heart Failure

Age is a major risk factor for heart failure.  Approximately 6% to 10% of people older than 65 years have heart failure, and approximately 80% of people hospitalized with heart failure are more than 65 years old.

Other risk factors include:

Certain unhealthy behaviors like smoking, eating a high-fat diet, and a lack of exercise can also put you at an increased risk for heart failure.

Heart Failure Classifications

Heart failure is classified according to its cause, its severity and its features. Heart failure may be categorized in various different ways, ranging from how the symptoms started through to the type of muscle abnormality that is occurring.

Here is how heart failure is classified by the American Heart Association.


Patient Symptoms


No limitation of physical activity. Ordinary physical activity does not cause undue fatigue, palpitation, dyspnea (shortness of breath).


Slight limitation of physical activity. Comfortable at rest. Ordinary physical activity results in fatigue, palpitation, dyspnea (shortness of breath).


Marked limitation of physical activity. Comfortable at rest. Less than ordinary activity causes fatigue, palpitation, or dyspnea.


Unable to carry on any physical activity without discomfort. Symptoms of heart failure at rest. If any physical activity is undertaken, discomfort increases.

The American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology developed this rating system in 2001. They use it to evaluate the progression of heart failure symptoms.

Heart Failure Treatments

Treatments typically include one or more of the following strategies:

  • Medications
  • Daily exercise
  • Reducing sodium intake
  • Drinking less liquids
  • Removing excess salt and water from the blood
  • Heart transplant and other surgeries

Early diagnosis and treatment can improve your quality of life if you’re diagnosed with heart failure.

You can find more information on heart failure and Heart Failure Awareness Week on the Heart Failure Society of America website. 

As important as getting the facts on heart failure is knowing the facts about heart disease.

You can learn all about them in our free guide “The Heart Disease Facts That Could Change Your Life.” Download it today to find out if you’re doing everything in your power to keep your heart healthy.

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