Also called congestive heart failure, heart failure is when the heart can't pump enough blood to the organs. The heart works, but not as well as it should. Heart failure is almost always a chronic, long-term condition. The older you are, the more common heart failure becomes. Your risk also rises if you are overweight, diabetic, smoke, abuse alcohol or use cocaine. When a heart begins to fail, fluid can pool in the body; this manifests as swelling (edema), usually in the lower legs and ankles. Fluid also may collect in the lungs, causing shortness of breath.