Congestive Heart Failure
Introduction to Congestive Heart Failure
Congestive Heart Failure (CHF), or just Heart Failure, is where the heart is no longer able to effectively pump blood around the body.
What is Congestive Heart Failure?
Congestive Heart Failure (CHF), or just Heart Failure, is where the heart is no longer able to effectively pump blood around the body. In heart failure the heart is weak, and so blood passes much slowly around the body, this results in organs not being properly supplied with blood and for the pressure inside the heart to increase. When this happens the walls of the heart may stretch to hold more blood or they may become thicker due to the increased pressure. Blood becomes backed up in the veins of the body and the kidneys retain water and salt causing swelling in the feet, legs and for fluid to build in the lungs- this backing up of fluid is where the term congested comes from.
What causes Congestive Heart Failure?
CHF is caused when there has been damage to the heart muscle, this includes a heart attack, which is when an artery supplying the heart is suddenly blocked and the heart muscle is starved of oxygen. This causes permanent damage to that area of the heart as heart muscle does not regenerate. CHF can be caused by coronary artery disease, which is a disease of the blood vessels that supply the heart, this condition causes a decreased flow of blood to the heart and hence the heart is weakened. Other conditions that can cause CHF include those that increase the workload of the heart, such as high blood pressure, heart valve disease, thyroid diseases, kidney disease and diabetes.
What are the symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure?
The symptoms of CHF can vary from very mild to severe. Due to fluid build-up in the lungs you may experience difficulty in breathing, breathless on lying down, cough or wheezing. You may also have swollen ankles and bloating around the abdomen. Other symptoms include dizziness, increase frequency of urination, fatigue and heart palpitations.
How is Congestive Heart Failure treated?
The only curative treatment for CHF is a heart replacement, as once the heart is damaged it cannot properly repair itself. However, there are many medications that can improve the symptoms and improve your quality of life. Firstly you will find that limiting the amount of salt in your diet, taking regular light exercise and eating healthily will help improve your symptoms. You will be prescribed various medications that work in different ways to improve your symptoms, these medications will reduce the work load of the heart, lower your blood pressure and decrease fluid retention. You may also be suitable for a pacemaker to be fitted if there is a problem with your heart rate. There are several more options for treatments for CHF, a specialist heart doctor called a cardiologist will be able to explain them in detail to you and answer any questions you may have.