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Congestive heart failure

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By definition, congestive heart failure is the heart’s inability to pump enough blood to allow for the body’s needs. Congestive heart failure typically stems from underlying conditions which either weaken or stiffen the heart, preventing it from doing its job. Some underlying conditions can be treated which will allow the heart to recover enough to maintain a degree of health, but in most cases lifestyle changes are necessary to allow the heart to pump adequate blood. Obesity is a leading contributing factor to congestive heart failure.

CONGESTIVE HEART FAILURE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

Heart failure is rarely something that happens immediately, it is considered a chronic condition that develops over a period of time. Congestive heart failure implies there is blood congestion elsewhere in the body due to the involvement of both of the heart’s lower chambers, causing blood congestion. Symptoms typically develop slowly and are known to develop after diagnosis. Symptoms may include weakness, shortness of breath, fatigue, the loss of the ability to physically exert energy, abdominal swelling, loss of appetite, weight gain from swelling and fluid, nausea, difficulty concentrating, persistent cough, wheezing, white or pink blood tinged sputum, swelling of the legs, ankles, and feet, irregular heart rate, and a rapid heart beat.
Congestive heart failure
Image: Congestive heart failure


Acute heart failure, which can sometimes accompany congestive heart failure is likely to present with symptoms which include rapid heart rate, irregular heart rate, palpitations, sudden and severe shortness of breath, foamy white or blood tinged sputum, sudden fluid build up, and chest pain.

CONGESTIVE HEART FAILURE CAUSES

There are numerous causes for congestive heart failure, most of which will develop as a side effect of another condition such as coronary heart disease, the damage from a heart attack, hypertension, faulty or misaligned heart valves, cardiomyopathy, heart defects which are present at birth, abnormal heart rhythms, inflammation of the heart muscle, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, emphysema, severe anemia, hypothyroidism, amyloidosis, and hemochromatosis. The heart’s inability to pump properly or to fill with blood properly may also lead to congestive heart failure.

CONGESTIVE HEART FAILURE RISK FACTOR

Risk factors for congestive heart failure include pre-existing heart conditions, high blood pressure, obesity, artery disease, heart attacks, heart defects, abuse of alcohol or drugs, kidney conditions, viruses that affect the heart, sleep apnea, diabetes, and an unhealthy lifestyle.

CONGESTIVE HEART FAILURE DIAGNOSIS

Diagnosing congestive heart failure starts with a medical history which will include the reporting of risk factors, and a physical examination. If risk factors exist, a physician will often evaluate whether tests are necessary such as a chest x-ray, blood tests to evaluate kidney and thyroid function, an echocardiogram to have a clearer view of the heart, and an ejection fraction test which measures the heart’s rate of blood expulsion.

A nuclear scan or a coronary catheterization may be performed to determine the artery width and other possible causes for congestive heart failure. These tests can help determine the course of treatment which will work best for the patient’s condition.

The heart will initially attempt to work harder to supply the body with the appropriate amount of blood which will also elevate levels of specific hormones in the body as well as stretch the arteries and the ventricle. This leads to eventual heart weakening. The prognosis for a patient with congestive heart failure is often determined by overall health and the cause of the congestive heart failure. Congestive heart failure can lead to debilitating symptoms, the need for artificial heart mechanisms, a heart transplant, and can lead to sudden death.

CONGESTIVE HEART FAILURE TREATMENT

Some treatment options may include surgical procedures that can lead to the correction of the congestive heart failure. These often include the ability to correct faulty valves in the heart, and other defects of the heart. Medication is often the first course of action as surgery presents a few risks including death. When medication does not work, and artificial and other implants are ineffective, a heart transplant may be necessary in some cases. Patients with chronic symptomatic congestive heart failure often rely on oxygen tanks and must undergo lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise changes.

There are experimental surgical options that have been met with some resistance but have proven to be moderately successful. Heart wraps and ventricular restorative surgeries have saved many patient lives. Congestive heart failure is not easy to correct without correcting the underlying cause, which may or may not be possible.

Congestive heart failure patients are often perpetually exhausted. Their bodies must work harder and sleep is interrupted as well as experiencing a higher degree of breathing difficulty from lying down. Cardiac patients do better when they can stay physically active on some level and rest when needed.
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