The fundamental purpose of the heart is to pump blood to various body parts. The right side of the heart impels blood to the lungs to receive oxygen. This blood becomes oxygenated and returns to the left side of the heart and then from the left side it moves into the blood vessels which forms a circulatory system from where the blood is carried into the various parts of the body. Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) is the condition in which the heart becomes unable to pump and deliver oxygenated blood throughout the body.
The heart is divided into four chambers:
- There are two chambers at the upper side called atria and the two chambers at the lower side called ventricles.
- The body supplies blood through the veins to the right ventricle and right atrium, which is then pumped to the lungs.
- The left ventricle and left atrium collects blood from the lungs and then impels out into the arteries through the aorta. These arteries are mean to feed oxygenated blood to all the tissues and organs of the body.
- Since the function of the left ventricle is to supply blood to the whole body, it is stronger than the right ventricle.
Although the term heart failure sounds frightening, it does not mean that your heart stops working completely. It just indicates that the tissues of the body are unable to receive the required amount of oxygen and blood on a temporary basis. So, do not get discouraged if you came to know that you are undergoing heart failure. With the use of advance techniques for diagnosing and treating this medical condition, many patients are living longer and feeling better.
Overview of Congestive Heart Failure
In this type of medical emergency, the heart becomes weak and less powerful to supply oxygen rich blood to all the body parts. In this condition, the blood does not flow easily through the blood vessels and thus through circulatory system and starts developing pressure in the vessels due to build up fluid. Symptoms depend on which body part is deprived from the blood supply.
Symptoms also depend on which area of the body is most involved in the reduced pumping action.
- When the right ventricle (right side of the heart) stops functioning, a fluid builds up in the lower legs and feet. The prime indication of failure in the functioning of the right ventricle is puffy legs due to swelling (edema), especially pitting edema. In this condition, if a finger is pressed on the swollen part of the leg, it will leave an impression on it. Heart failure does not cause non-pitting edema.
- When the left ventricle (left side of the heart) stops working, fluid starts accumulating into the lungs and causes pulmonary edema or pulmonary congestion. This surplus fluid in the lungs creates difficulty in breathing (the airways do not expand properly when a person inhales), which may cause shortness in breathing even when a person is relaxing.
- As the condition with the right ventricle worsens, the abdomen eventually starts collecting fluid (ascites) and the upper legs start swelling. The fluid retention is accompanied with weight gain.
If this medical emergency is not treated early, it may worsen the condition of the patient over time. There are several causes of congestive heart failure and its outcome may differ for each individual. This emergency may develop step by step over many years or more speedily after a heart muscle disorder or a cardiac arrest. CHF is normally categorized into two types: systolic and diastolic heart failure. Possibilities of developing this CHF increases with age. In addition to this fact, it is observed that the patients who are at higher risk of developing heart disease are also at risk of developing CHF.
Systolic Heart Failure: When the heart fails to pump enough blood into the circulatory system due to the weakened muscles systolic, heart failure occurs.
Diastolic Heart Failure: When the heart is able to contract normally, but gets rigid or stiff during relaxing and refilling with blood, a person may tend to develop a diastolic heart failure. In this condition, the heart fails to fill with enough blood, which results into accumulation of fluid into the lungs and ultimately into symptoms of cardiac failure. This medical emergency is more common in women and patients above 75 years of age, particularly among those with high blood pressure.
Congestive Heart Failure Facts
- CHF is a medical emergency in which the heart is not able to pump adequate amount of blood to fulfill the requirements of the body.
- Symptoms of this disorder may vary for each person, but usually include diminished exercise capacity, severe fatigue, swelling on certain body parts and shortness of breath.
- Many processes accompanied with various diseases may damage the functioning of the heart as a pump and results into cardiac failure.
- This condition can be diagnosed appropriately by taking the medical history of the patient, performing certain laboratory tests and a careful physical analysis.
- The statistics of cardiac failure vary for people in different age groups. This condition affects around 25 percent of people at the age of 85 or above, 5 percent of people at the age of 75 percent or above and 1 percent of people at the age of 50 or above.
- The course of cardiac failure is extremely variable for each patient.
- The treatment options for this medical condition include medications, addressing potentially correctable factors, mechanical therapies, heart transplant, and lifestyle modifications.
- Most of the Medicare patients are hospitalized due to heart failure.
- The death rate from cardiac failure is nearly 10 percent after a year.
You can’t inverse many factors that lead to cardiac failure, but heart failure can usually treated with better outcomes. Medications can reduce the symptoms and signs of cardiac failure and thus help you live for more years. Certain changes in lifestyle such as reducing intake of fats, salt and cholesterol in your diet, exercising regularly, treating depression, managing stress, and especially shedding those extra pounds can actually enhance the quality of life. Controlling the risk factors and other disorders such as high cholesterol, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes can work best to prevent the congestive heart failure.