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What is Congestive Heart Failure?

women is suffering  heart pain
  • Dec 20
  • Cardiology

Heart failure – also called congestive cardiac failure – can be classified as a long-term condition in which the heart isn’t pumping enough blood to meet the body’s needs. Owing to the heart muscle being weakened, it affects the heart’s pumping ability thus making it less efficient. As a result of this condition, kidneys start retaining excess fluid and salt which, in turn, causes a fluid retention, particularly in the lungs, legs, and abdomen – thus leading to congestion.

To recapitulate, congestive heart failure encapsulates two basic problems:

  • Systolic dysfunction – a condition affecting the heart’s ability to pump adequate blood to cater to the body’s needs.
  • Diastolic dysfunction – a condition which impairs the heart from accepting all the blood being sent to it.

Thereafter, the odds of people suffering from both systolic and diastolic heart failure are quite high.  Men also tend to be at a higher risk as compared to women while individuals of African descent are more likely to suffer from this condition as compared to their European peers.

Causes

Congestive Heart Failure can be caused by other diseases or injuries that damage or put too much strain on the heart muscle causing it to weaken. That being said, the leading causes of congestive heart failure are:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – a genetic condition
  • Untreated high blood pressure – a previous heart attack
  • Myocardial infarction
  • Congenital (from birth) heart disease
  • Diseased heart valve
  • Myocarditis – infection of the heart
  • Endocarditis
  • Arrhythmias
  • Diabetes

Besides these conditions, there are a bunch of other factors that can cause congestive heart failure.

  • Obesity
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Use of illicit drugs such as cocaine
  • Unhealthy eating
  • Incessant smoking
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Certain chemotherapy drugs
  • Radiation

Symptoms

Symptoms of congestive heart failure symptoms aren’t always obvious and the likelihood of people misdiagnosing the condition initially is quite high. In some cases, there might not be any symptoms at all. Moreover, in most cases, congestive heart failure affects adults. That being said, there have been recorded cases of this condition occurring in children due to congenital heart disease.

Here are some common symptoms associated with this condition:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Weight gain
  • Edema or unusual swelling of the feet and legs
  • Swelling of the abdomen due to fluid retention
  • Fatigue & weakness accompanied by bouts of dizziness
  • Breathing problems causing sleepless nights
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased heart rate/ heart palpitations
  • Persistent coughing or wheezing
  • Digestive problems
  • Constipation
  • Pale skin and cold hands or feet
  • Tiring easily
  • Increased urination at night
  • Orthopnea
  • Bendopnea
  • Feelings of restlessness, anxiety, and suffocation
  • Confusion and impaired memory
  • Chest pain or discomfort in parts of the upper body
  • Presence of bluish skin around the mouth

Diagnosis

In order to confirm or rule out the diagnosis of heart failure,  cardiology doctor will initially review the patient’s medical history – including past and present illnesses – while also analyzing his/her family history and lifestyle. He might also perform a physical examination post which he might ask the patient to conduct the following tests:

  • Chest X-ray to check for heart enlargement
  • Echocardiogram (an ultrasound of the heart) to diagnose abnormalities
  • Nuclear ventriculogram to analyze the pumping function of the heart
  • ECG
  • Blood and Urine tests
  • Lung function tests
  • Angiography

Treatment

Thanks to advancements made in medical science, treatment of congestive heart failure is now possible. Here are some treatment options for individuals suffering from heart failure:

  • Medicines like Beta blockers to reduce excess stress on the failing heart; Diuretics – to remove excess fluid and decrease Edema; & ACE inhibitors – to open up blood vessels, lower blood pressure and reduce sodium retention in people who have heart failure.
  • Insertion of a pacemaker –  a device attached to the side of the heart that stimulates the heart to pump.
  • Heart Transplant – surgically replacing the heart with a functioning heart.
  • Surgery to open blocked blood vessels in the heart so as to restore normal blood flow or for replacing narrowed or leaking heart valves.
  • Lifestyle changes – such as eating a healthy diet, quitting smoking, restricting alcohol intake, incorporating gentle physical activity, maintaining healthy blood cholesterol levels, losing excess body fat, controlling blood sugar levels etc.

About Fortis

With 56 hospitals across the nation and over 10,000 beds, Fortis Healthcare Limited is a leading integrated healthcare delivery service provider in India. For over 26 years, Fortis Hospitals have been committed to the cause of getting people back to their lives faster and stronger.

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