Question: What is the difference between systolic heart failure and diastolic heart failure?
Answer: The heart has, basically, two large pumping chambers. One is the right ventricle which pumps blood into the lungs where the blood gets rid of carbon dioxide and picks up oxygen, and then the blood goes into the left side of the heart -- and the left ventricle, which is a much larger and stronger pumping chamber and pumps that fresh blood to the rest of the body. If either one of those chambers, or both chambers doesn't squeeze as well as it's supposed to, it can lead to a variety of different symptoms, and that's systolic heart failure -- right ventricular systolic failure, or left ventricular systolic failure.
Diastolic failure is very different in that it affects mainly the left ventricle. When there are certain conditions -- and sometimes it just happens as we get older -- certain conditions where the ventricle doesn't relax and let blood fill it properly, in other words it's stiff or non-compliant, what happens in that circumstance is, the pressure of the blood in the ventricle goes up, it's reflected back into the left atrium -- the small chamber -- and then back in the lungs and even though it's not due to poor squeezing of the heart, the symptoms can be very similar, mainly breathlessness and fatigue.