Congestive heart failure may sound frightening, but it can be cured with the help of advance medicines and treatment if diagnosed within few hours after the symptoms. In this medical emergency, the heart becomes unable to pump oxygen rich blood throughout the body. There are certain reasons or other medical conditions which tend to develop cardiac failure in a person:
- Disorders that cause heart muscle stiffening.
- Disorders that damage the heart muscle and weaken them.
- Diseases or disorders that increase the demand of oxygen by the body cells beyond the capacity of the heart.
Our heart is divided into two chambers: the upper chamber and the lower chamber. The upper chamber has two atria (left atrium and right atrium) and the lower chamber has two ventricles (right ventricle and left ventricle). The ventricles or muscular chambers pump blood when the muscles of the heart constrict. The process of ventricle muscle contraction is called systole.
Several medical conditions can damage and weaken the muscles of the ventricle and make them unable to pump adequate amount of blood. This disease can be infection (myocarditis), heart attack, toxins(some chemotherapy drugs, alcohol), etc. The inability of the ventricles to pump blood due to the weakening of muscle is called systolic dysfunction. After every systole (ventricular contraction), the muscle of the ventricle needs to relax, which allows the blood to get filled in the ventricles from the atria. This relaxation of the ventricle is referred as diastole.
Disorders such as amyloidosis or hemochromatosis (overload of iron) can stiffen the cardiac muscle and harm the capacity of ventricles to relax and fill; this is called diastolic dysfunction. The prime cause of this condition is longstanding hypertension or high blood pressure that thickens the heart (hypertrophied). In some patients, the pumping and filling capability of the cardiac system is normal, but the abnormally high demand of oxygen by the body tissues (sometimes due to anemia or hyperthyroidism) may trouble the heart in supplying adequate amount of blood, which ultimately results into high output heart failure. In few patients, more than one factor may cause congestive heart failure.
Few Facts about Congestive Heart Failure
This disorder develops when the heart fails to pump enough blood throughout the body. As an outcome, the body organs are deprived of oxygen and nutrient rich blood. Although the term “ heart failure” may sound frightening, it does not mean that the heart literally stops beating or working completely. But it does not work in an efficient manner.
In North America, more than 6 million people get affected by CHF. It is the prime cause for the hospitalization of people above 65 years old. Each congestive heart failure is associated with around 300,000 deaths.
As per studies, men get more prone to this medical condition as compared to women. It is observed that Africans have comparatively more chances of CHF than Europeans; their death rate is also high.
CHF have two basic problems:
Systolic Dysfunction: This occurs when the heart is unable to pump and supply enough blood to various body parts as per their requirement.
Diastolic Dysfunction: This occurs when the heart is not able to accept all the blood being supplied to it.
Several people undergo both diastolic and systolic heart failure.
Effects of Congestive Heart Failure on Various Body Organs
Cardiac heart failure may affect several body organs. For example:
- The lungs may get filled or congested with fluid causing pulmonary edema, which may decrease a person’s ability to workout.
- The intestine may become less efficient or weaken in absorbing the medicines and nutrients.
- The impaired cardiac muscles become unable or fail to supply the required amount of blood to the kidneys. This may cause the inability of the kidney to excrete water and salt (sodium). This disturbed functioning of the kidney may cause the body to build up fluid.
- This fluid may compile in the liver, thereby damaging its potential to eliminate the toxins from the body and develop essential proteins.
- Fluid may also accumulate in the external body parts, resulting in swelling (edema) of the feet and ankle.
Eventually, unnoticed, untreated and worsening cardiac failure will impair each of the body organs.
Several health problems may cause cardiac failure:
- Unrelenting high blood pressure develops force in the arteries which pressurizes the heart to pump more blood, which as a result weakens with time. Patients with uncontrolled blood pressure are at greater risk of developing CCF.
- Coronary artery disease is a medical emergency that narrows the arteries and interrupts the passage of blood flow towards the heart. This may as a result weaken and impair the various cardiac sections.
- Cardiac arrest impairs the muscles of the heart. The heart attack victims have greater possibilities of developing heart failure.
- Arrhythmias or abnormal heart beats may disturb the pumping action of the heart.
- Diabetes increases the risk of CHF.
- Heart valve may get damaged due to infection or rheumatic disease.
- Heart valve disease may develop due to the abnormalities present in a person since birth, or it may also develop over time.
- The heart chambers are divided by a wall and an enlargement in this wall may also be a cause. Enlarged wall can be a genetic condition.
- If the heart muscle develops a viral infection, it may weaken the heart causing cardiac failure.
- Certain problems of the kidney that elevate blood pressure and build up fluid can raise the chances of CCF by developing extra stress on the heart.
Additionally, all the risk factors that are responsible for increasing the chances of heart disease such as obesity, smoking, excessive alcohol intake, also elevate one’s chances of congestive cardiac failure.
Complications and Symptoms of Heart Failure
- It develops new muscle tissue which helps to pump harder.
- It dilates or enlarges to form a huge pump.
- It beats with faster rate.
When the heart compensates, a number of changes take place which ultimately develop symptoms. The heart fails to pump adequate amount of blood through the body, which results into the accumulation of fluid in the lungs and legs due to the back up of blood. This develops remarkable swelling on the legs and ankles and shortness of breath.
The most common warning signs may include:
- Wheezing and coughing
- Shortness of breath
- Weakness and fatigue
- Swollen ankles
- Breathing problem during the night or while lying down
Other symptoms may include:
- Fluid accumulation in the abdomen
- Urination at night
- Bluish skin around the mouth
- Cold feet or hands and pale skin
- Bloating, loss of appetite or abdominal pain
Causes and symptoms of congestive heart failure can be treated by prompt medical treatment, required changes in diet and intake of prescribed medicines on a regular basis.