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Congestive heart failure diagnosis is based on certain aspects such as the relevant medical history of a patient, risk factors, selected medical test and a prudent physical examination. A thorough history of the patient may divulge the presence of one or more warning signs of cardiac failure. Additionally, a history of prior cardiac arrest, significant use of alcohol, diabetes, hypertension or coronary heart disease can be clues. The physical evaluation focuses on detecting the quantity of the fluid accumulated in the body (neck veins, leg swelling, or breath sounds) as well as cautiously characterizing the heart’s condition (murmurs, heart sounds, pulse and heart size).
The doctors who deal with the heart related issues are called cardiologists. Some doctors have training in advanced and additional areas which involve non-invasive studies where they use radioactive drugs or dyes for studying the function and structure of the heart (nuclear cardiology), echocardiography, cardiac rhythm disorders or abnormal heart beats (electrophysiology), cardiac catheterization and radiologic heart imaging.
Why Tests and Exams ?
Once the patient visits the cardiac center, the doctor will examine his/her signs and symptoms of cardiac failure:
- Edema (swelling on the leg)
- Breathing problems or fast breathing
- Veins in the neck are distended
- Swelling on the abdomen or liver
- Abnormal heart sounds with fast, irregular or uneven heart beat
- Doctors use their stethoscope to listen the sound that develops during the build up of fluid (crackles) into the lungs.
Many tests are performed to find the cause, monitor the cardiac failure and diagnose the exact condition.
An X-ray, echocardiogram, electrocardiogram and MRI are best for having a visual idea about the cardiac system. The cardiologists often use these images as a guide for opting the right treatment.
- Diagnosing and monitoring heart failure
- Finding out possible causes and other disorders that may lead to this medical condition
- Identifying the risk factors
- Monitoring the side effects of drugs that a patient might be taking
Medical Tests for Diagnosing Congestive Cardiac Failure
Cardiac specialists use various medical tests for diagnosing the cardiac failure. The most preferred tests are as below:
Chest X-ray: This technique helps to get an x ray image that shows the shape and size of the heart and lungs. In cardiac failure, the accumulated fluid in the lungs can be seen and the enlarged shape of the heart is also visible. An X ray is also used to detect other medical conditions.
Blood Tests: This test may indicate the presence of other disorders that impair the cardiac system. A blood test is helpful in checking the levels of B-type natriuretic peptide or BNP (hormone). When your heart overworks, it tends to secrete B-type natriuretic peptide in excess or at greater level, and this levels indicates that a patient is undergoing heart failure.
Electrocardiogram (ECG): Electrocardiogram is used to measure the electrical impulses produced by your heart. In this process, doctors locate electrodes or sensor patches attached with wires on your skin. Electrocardiogram helps to reveal any damage to the cardiac system and heart rhythm disorder due to a previous attack.
Angiogram or Coronary Catheterization: This test uses a catheter (a thin, elastic tube), which is inserted into a blood vessel of the elbow or groin (upper thigh) and guided to the heart. A dye that makes the arteries visible under the x-ray is injected into the arteries that move towards the heart. Angiogram helps to identify the narrowed arteries moving towards the heart (coronary heart disease), which may develop congestive cardiac failure. This test is also beneficial to know the health of the heart valves and the strength of the left ventricle (main pumping chamber of the cardiac system).
Myocardial Biopsy: In this test, a tiny flexible biopsy cord is inserted into a vein in your groin or neck to take off some tiny pieces of the cardiac muscle. Myocardial biopsy is performed to detect certain forms of cardiac muscle diseases that may result into cardiac failure.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI: In this technique, radio waves and magnetic field are used to develop detailed and clear visuals of the cardiac system.
Echocardiogram: This technique uses sound waves to create a clear and detailed picture of certain factors such as the size, function and stricture of the cardiac system. These images allow doctors to determine the pumping capacity of the heart and differentiate between various forms of heart failure. An echocardiogram also measures the ejection fraction (how much percentage of blood is pumped by the major blood supplying chamber of the heart).
Right Heart Catheterization: This technique requires a catheter (a thin elastic tube) to be inserted into a vein (blood vessel) in the groin or neck of the patient. They direct the catheter to the cardiac system and thus measure the pressure within the chambers of the heart. This process helps to opt for heart failure treatment.
Multiple-gated Acquisition Scanning(MUGA) or Radionuclide ventriculography: This is a nuclear medicine test in which a small amount of radioactive dye is injected into the vein and a special camera is used to see the percentage of blood pumped by your heart with each beat. Outcome of these tests allows the doctors to determine the causes of the symptoms and schedule a treatment plan. Cardiologists categorize or measure the cardiac failure on the basis of a standard scale that ranges between I to IV. A cardiac failure of class I type is considered as the moderate form, in which the patient is able to perform the routine activities normally without feeling stressed, fatigued or winded, whereas the patients at class IV level are considered to be in the extreme severe condition in which they experience shortness in breathing even while resting.
Stress Tests: This is an exercise test in which the patient is asked to workout on a stationary bicycle or a treadmill or take a dose of drug that will boost the activity of the heart during the workout. An electrocardiogram is used to monitor each activity of the heart when a person in performing activities. The stress test allows your doctor to judge the effectiveness of your therapy and plan for more advanced therapies. Various form of stress examinations measure the response of the cardiac system to workout in various manners and situations. Few cardiac centers throughout the world have the advanced equipment to measure the relaxation effect of the cardiac system to the exercise. They perform a test to analyze diastolic cardiac failure.
The above mentioned medical techniques require expertise and specialization for appropriate diagnosis. All the methods are commonly used for congestive heart failure diagnosis. The symptoms of this medical condition develop with build up of plaque deposits and the process of deposition is gradual. If the patient observes the symptoms in the early stages and gets it diagnosed immediately, his/her chances of recovering from this medical condition increases.
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.
Almost 6 million people in America are prone to cardiac failure. It is one of the leading cause for people above 65 years of age to get hospitalized. Cardiac failure is a chronic condition which develops gradually over the time. After diagnosis, the treatment option to be opted depends on the congestive heart failure stages and prognosis.
Cardiac failure or heart failure does not indicate that the cardiac system has stopped working completely; however, it refers to the condition in which the heat muscles get damaged or weakened due to certain reason and become unable to pump enough blood to the body parts. Due to this medical condition, blood flow through the heart and body slows down, thus increasing the pressure in the cardiac system. As a result, the body is deprived of the essential nutrients and oxygen. The heart chambers may respond and stretch a little or get thickened or stiffed to hold more blood for supplying to other body parts; however, this may eventually weaken the heart muscles and make them disable to pump efficiently. In this condition, the kidneys may start responding by retaining salt and fluid (water) into the body. If the fluid accumulates into the ankles, legs, arms, lungs, feet or other organs, a person may start feeling congested and this condition is defined as congestive heart failure. Once the heart failure is diagnosed, its evaluation becomes crucial. Doctors may ask the patient for the accurate and complete history of the symptoms.
Although this medical emergency is chronic (long-term condition), it may sometimes develop all of a sudden and may become a core reason for various heart problems. Cardiac failure may affect only the left or right side of the cardiac system. These are called left sided or right sided heart failure. In most cases, both sides of the cardiac system are involved.
Conditions during Heart Failure
- Heart muscles are not able to pump enough blood to fulfill the requirement of the body. This condition is referred as systolic heart failure.
- Heart muscles get stiffed and hence it becomes difficult for them to fill up with blood. This condition is refered to as diastolic heart failure.
Any of these conditions make the heart unable to pump the essential amount of oxygenated blood to the body organs. As the pumping capacity of the heart weakens, blood may start backing up into other body parts and the parts such as the arms, gastrointestinal tract, legs, liver and lungs get filled with fluid.
Usually, patients with coronary artery disease (CAD) have greater chances of developing failure in the functioning of the heart. CAD is a condition which refers to narrowing of the arteries or small blood vessels that are responsible for supplying oxygen rich blood to the cardiac system. If high blood pressure is not controlled appropriately, it may also lead to cardiac failure.
Other major causes may be:
- Heart attack or myocardial infarction
- Certain type of infection that impairs the heart muscle
- Congenital heart disease
- Arrhythmias or irregular/abnormal heart beat
- Heart valve disorder (this may occur in valves that are narrowed or leaky)
Congestive Heart Failure Stages
The American Heart Association has categorized this medical emergency into stages by considering the progression of cardiac failure.
Stage A : At this stage, the patient is at high risk of developing this condition.
Stage B: This stage involves a condition in which the left ventricle of the heart is dysfunctional or enlarged due to certain reason, but the patient does not show any symptoms (asymptomatic).
Stage C: Patients may start experiencing inability to workout, severe fatigue, shortness of breath, etc. This is called symptomatic cardiac failure.
Stage D: This can be considered as the last stage. Patients may undergo the symptoms in spite of rest and medical treatment. Mechanical devices, cardiac transplantation, end-of-life care or more aggressive medical treatment may be required.
The patients can be classified on the basis of their physical restrictions.
Class I: No symptoms while performing routine activities, no restrictions of physical activity or workout.
Class II: Symptoms may develop while performing certain routine activities, slight restrictions.
Class III: Symptoms may develop even with less physical activities, marked restrictions.
Class IV: A person may undergo symptoms even while resting, severe restrictions.
Symptoms and Signs
In some cases, patient with heart failure may not experience any problem. Early signs of heart failure may include cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty in taking a deep breath, mostly when lying down. If the patient has usual breathing problems such as emphysema, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), or asthma, they should get a clue that they are undergoing an attack or certain heart worsening condition.
Shortness of Breath: A person with congestive cardiac failure may experience dyspne (difficulty in breathing), particularly while being active. Ordinary activities for example, walking, sweeping, doing routine tasks, etc., may be impossible or problematic. Shortness of breath can be relieved by taking rest. When the fluid gets filled into the lungs and starts interfering with the oxygen during blood oxygenation, the patient may experience orthopnea and dysnea. As the fluid deposits in the lungs become very critical, a foamy pink liquid may come out with cough.
Workout Intolerance: It means that a person becomes unable to tolerate physical exertion and sometimes routine activities that he or she may have been performing without any difficulty. The body requires nutrients and oxygen for performing any physical activity and an impaired heart is not able to fulfill the requirements of the body. The ability to workout or even perform some activity at a normal pace may get restricted due to severe fatigue and difficulty in breathing.
Swelling and Fluid Retention: Edema (puffy swelling) in the ankles, feet and legs may occur, especially after prolonged sitting or end of the day after office. Usually, the swelling is more evident on the lower leg or in the ankles at the front, where the tibia (bone in the leg) is near to the skin. Some patients may undergo severe swelling which may spread up till the abdominal wall, scrotum, hips and ultimately, the ascites (abdominal cavity). Patients should keep the track of his/her body weight on a regular basis, as the retention of fluid is often reflected by the increasing difficulty in breathing and amount of weight gain. Heart failure patients should know their dry weight (weight when they do not have pitting edema).
Pitting edema is a condition in which if the puffy area is pressed with finger, it will make an visible indentation for few minutes. This condition is not synonymous with cardiac failure; it may develop due to some other reasons such as kidney or liver failure. Generally, no pitting edema is caused due to heart failure.
Cardiac failure is a serious health problem that usually develops with age. Today, several victims are surviving with various heart diseases and are living a normal life. Some of them are unaware that they are developing a condition like heart failure. Recently, more effective therapies and medications have been evolved that enhance the outlook of this medical condition.
Medications and drugs are the protagonist of therapy with congestive cardiac failure.
- Implantable defibrillators and pacemakers have been modified. They are helpful in controlling the less common, but life-threatening disruption in the heartbeats.
- Novel and sophisticated treatments have proved beneficial for the patients to improve their quality of life and help them to live longer. New clinical trials and therapies are performed on patients under strict scientific and ethical monitoring.
- Certain sophisticated treatments such as use of LVADs, new form of temporary mechanical heart and heart transplants have been proved beneficial for many patients.
Understanding the congestive heart failure stages and prognosis in early days can help the patients to enhance their scope of survival for a long term. The therapies and medications show better result when used in early stages of heart failure.
Congestive heart failure indicates that the power of the heart to pump blood throughout the body reduces drastically than normal and a person starts developing its symptoms. After observing any of the symptoms, the patient should immediately consult a doctor for further diagnosis, confirmation and treatment. During diagnosis, the doctor will carry out certain medical and physical examinations along with considering the risk factors and medical history of the patient. When treating this medical condition, the goals are to improve symptoms, treat the core causes of heart failure and increase the chances of prolonging the life of the patient. Certain changes in lifestyle (such as exercising, changing eating habits and quitting smoking) and medications (such as diuretics and beta-blockers) are initial forms of treatment. For patients with severe cardiac failure, cardiologists may suggest heart transplant or mechanical heart pump.
Congestive heart failure treatment proves significantly helpful to improve the symptoms and aid the weakened cardiac function as effectively as possible. Heart failure specialists treat some patients by correcting the inexplicit cause of their condition, for example, by controlling the fast or abnormal heart beats, repairing or opening clogged arteries or replacing diseased valves. Cardiologists also treat other medical conditions that may contribute in aggravating the underlying cardiac problems such as anemia, thyroid problems, sleep apnea and other blood related abnormalities.
Few health care centers have doctors or cardiologists that are well equipped with advanced training in cardiac failure to treat the congestive heart failure patients. They have vast experience in all types of surgery for treating various heart related diseases. Surgeons often perform heart transplants, implant ventricular assist devices and minimally invasive cardiac surgery.
Doctors have Certain Goals for Treating Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)
While most victims with heart failure cannot be cured, changes in lifestyle and diet, medications and specialized treatment and care for those in advanced stages can often help to relieve symptoms and drastically enhance the quality of their lives. Specialized treatments can also prolong the life of a person by soothing the worsened condition to some extent. Since the causes of CHF vary for each person, the treatment options opted by the cardiologists may also differ.
The goals of CHF treatment are to:
- Improve the symptoms of a patient along with the quality of life
- Treat the core causes of heart failure
- Prolong the life of the victim
- Eliminate the causes and stop the condition from getting worse.
The doctor may also continue to treat other conditions or diseases that causes CHF (such as diabetes, high blood pressure or coronary artery disease).
What are the Options for Congestive Heart Failure Treatment?
Treatments for congestive cardiac failure may include medical devices, surgery, lifestyle changes and medications.
Biventricular Cardiac Heart Pacemaker: This can also be called cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) device. It sends electrical impulses to the lower chambers of the heart in a specific time. This device is used to treat the patients whose heart’s electrical conduction is abnormal or irregular and who have moderate to intense cardiac failure.
Ventricular Assist Device (VAD): This device is used for the patients whose weakened heart needs assistance in pumping blood. Surgeons implant VAD into the abdomen of the patient and connect it to the cardiac system. This can also be called mechanical cardiac pump that can be used as a bridge to cardiac transplant or as a permanent solution for patients who cannot undergo transplantation. VAD is suitable for most patients who are not left with any other treatment options.
Internal Cardiac Defibrillator (ICD): Surgeons implant internal cardiac defibrillator under the skin to monitor the abnormal or fast rhythms (arrhythmias) in patients undergoing heart failure. This device sends electrical signals to the cardiac system; if it detects abnormal or high rhythm, it will transform the beats into slow and more effective pumping.
Heart Transplant: Some patients with completely damaged cardiac system have to choose this treatment option.
Coronary Bypass Surgery: According to the diagnosis, if severly narrowed coronary arteries are found to be the reason for heart failure, most heart specialist may suggest coronary bypass surgery.
Heart Valve Replacement or Repair: Replacement or repair of heart valve is recommended to treat the underlying symptoms that have caused heart failure. This surgery will not only help to relieve the symptoms, but will also improve the quality of the patient’s life.
Myectomy: In this therapy, the overgrown septal muscle in the cardiac system is removed to eliminate the clogging that occurs in hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Myectomy is usually performed when medications fail to relieve the symptoms.
Heart care specialists often use medications that are proven to increase the chances of survival and prolong life and relieve symptoms. The heart specialist may also prescribe certain medications that help to improve circulation, lower blood pressure and prevent clogging in the arteries or blood thinners to dissolve clots or prevent clotting.
A number of drugs may aid to treat the heart’s inability to pump enough blood through the respective chambers.
- Beta Blockers: These drugs help to lower blood pressure, slow the heart beat and reduce the risk of abnormal or irregular rhythms of heart.
- ACE (Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme) Inhibitors: These inhibitors improve blood flow, reduce blood pressure and decrease the workload of the heart.
- Angiotensin II (A-II) Receptor Blockers (ARBs): A-II receptor blockers have several benefits as compared to the angiotensin converting enzyme without any potential side effects such as persistent cough. It is useful in lowering down the blood pressure and enhance the heart efficiency to pump blood. These drugs may also amend the survival chances of the pateint following a heart attack. Candesartian and valsartan are the common forms of ARBs.
- Diurectics: This drug is used to prevent the accumulation of fluid in the body and lessen the accumulated fluid in the lungs by making breathing easy.
- Inotropes: These medications are intravenous and are used for the patient with severe heart failure. Inotropes help to improve the pumping action of the heart and keep the blood pressure under control.
- Digoxin: This drug can also be called digitalis. It helps to elevate the heart’s contraction strength, tends to reduce the fast heartbeat and controls the irregular heartbeat.
- Aldosterone Antagonists: These drugs may help to repeal scarring of the heart, encourage the cardiac system to work better, and prolong the life of the patient even with severe condition.
- Nesiritide: This medication is intravenous (given through vein). Nesiritide is a synthetic form of BN (B-type natriuretic peptide), a hormone that is produced naturally in the human body.
In some cases, cardiac failure becomes so severe that the patient needs to be kept under observation in the hospital. During treatment, the patient may be given some medications that help the heart to relieve the symptoms and pump appropriately.
Doctors may also provide supplement oxygen. Patients with severe condition may require supplemental oxygen for a long time.
Doctors may ask the patient to make few changes in their lifestyle; this can help the patient in relieving symptoms and preventing the disease from worsening. The possible changes in the lifestyle may include:
- Cutting off the intake of excessive sodium and fat in diet
- Limiting or avoiding the intake of alcohol
- Quitting smoking
- Limiting or avoiding caffeine intake
- Losing extra pounds if the patient is overweight or maintaining the healthy weight
- Exercising according to the schedule structured by the cardiac rehabilitation program or by their own
- Reducing stress and thus the chances of high blood pressure.
A typical congestive heart failure treatment program may usually include all the above practices compositely. There may be a few changes in this program for each individual.
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.