Your heart may not be pumping out enough blood to the rest of your body.
Heart failure doesn’t affect everyone equally. There’s quite a difference between heart failure with reduced ejection fraction, and heart failure with preserved ejection fraction. So what does ejection fraction even mean?
Ejection Fraction, Explained
Ejection fraction refers to the percentage of blood that leaves the left ventricle of the heart with each pump. It is also known as systolic heart failure.
There are four chambers in the heart: the right atrium, left atrium, right ventricle, and left ventricle. The atria are the upper chambers, and they receive blood. The ventricles are the lower chambers, and they pump blood out.
To put it simply, the left ventricle is the last chamber that oxygenated blood flows through before it gets dispersed throughout the rest of your body. In a healthy heart, about 50 to 70 percent of the blood leaves the left ventricle with each beat.
Reduced Ejection Fraction, Explained
In someone with reduced ejection fraction, less than 40 percent of the blood leaves the heart with each beat. That’s a problem for two reasons. For starters, this means blood may pool and accumulate in the left ventricle.
Another problem is that reduced ejection fraction leads to less blood flow throughout the body. Your blood helps all of your organs get the oxygen and nutrients they need to function well. With less blood flow, your entire body may feel fatigued and have problems.
Treating Heart Failure to Improve Ejection Fraction
Luckily, treatment for heart failure may help improve ejection fraction. If you start treatment at an early stage, you may be able to slow the progression of heart failure and keep symptoms milder. Remember, don’t be discouraged by the name “heart failure.” Your heart hasn’t “failed,” and it’s still possible to see improvement in most cases.
Marrick Kukin, MD, is a cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital, Northwell Health.
- Heart chambers. Washington, DC: MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. (Accessed on July 28, 2021)
- Heart failure: Clinical manifestations and diagnosis in adults. Waltham, MA: UpToDate, 2021. (Accessed on July 28, 2021)
- Types of heart failure. Dallas, TX: American Heart Association. (Accessed on July 28, 2021)