Heart failure – this dire-sounding term often brings to mind a heart that has beat its last. Not so. Heart failure means that the heart isn’t able to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. Common effects of heart failure include fatigue, shortness of breath, and swelling in the legs. Many people are surprised to learn that heart failure is often a manageable condition. Taking medications, balancing exercise and rest, following a low-sodium diet, and being careful about fluid intake can help keep it in check. But heart failure can be unpredictable. After a long stretch of being under control, it can flare up, and even require a hospital stay. Sometimes these flare-ups come from out of the blue, caused by an infection or a medication. Most of the time, though, they creep up, announcing themselves with subtle changes like being more tired than usual or quickly gaining several pounds.