What is Congestive Heart Failure?
The most important role the heart plays is to supply the body with oxygen-rich blood. When your heart is not pumping blood efficiently, fluid may collect in your lungs and other areas of the body, leading to fatigue, shortness of breath, weight gain, cough, and chest discomfort.
What are the symptoms?
Congestive heart failure can be either chronic – ongoing, or acute – meaning the onset of the condition is sudden.
Symptoms of chronic congestive heart failure:
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling of the legs, ankles and feet
- Irregular heartbeat
- Persistent cough or wheezing
- Fluid retention and weight gain
- Lack of appetite
The symptoms of acute congestive heart failure closely mimic those of chronic heart failure; however, acute symptoms appear suddenly and worsen quickly.
Make immediate arrangements to see your doctor if you think you’re experiencing signs and symptoms of heart failure.
What are the causes and risk factors?
Heart failure usually develops after other medical conditions have severely weakened or damaged your heart to the point where it can no longer meet the needs of the body. Eventually, the excess blood backs up and collects in the lungs, liver, abdomen and extremities.
The following conditions can damage or weaken your heart, eventually leading to chronic or acute heart failure:
- Coronary artery disease and prior heart attacks
- Heart valve issues
- Congenital heart defects
- Cardiomyopathy (damage to heart muscle)
Other risk factors include:
- Sleep Apnea
- Certain medications
- Viral infection
- Excessive alcohol abuse
How is it diagnosed?
Through a thorough medical exam, your doctor can check for some of the common irregularities that are typically associated with congestive heart failure. In addition to the physical exams, you may be asked to agree to undergo the following tests in order to reach a firm diagnosis:
- Blood test
- Chest X-ray
- Electrocardiogram (ECG)
- Ejection Fraction
- Stress Test
- CT scan MRI
Based on the results of your diagnostic tests and physical exam, your doctor can diagnose your heart failure and the severity of it. The severity of your heart failure will dictate how your condition is treated.
How is it treated?
Unfortunately, chronic heart failure is a permanent condition. Once diagnosed, it will require lifelong care and lifestyle changes in order to manage. With proper treatment, however, many patients see a reduction in their symptoms and an improved quality of life.
Heart failure treatment may include medications, fluid and salt restrictions, dietary changes, exercises, and could require surgery to address structural heart problems, arterial blockages or rhythm abnormalities.
- ACE inhibitors
- Angiotensin II receptors
- Digoxin (Lanoxin)
- Beta Blockers