Congestive heart failure (CHF) occurs when the heart can not pump blood efficiently throughout the body. The heart does not stop beating. However, is not working or pumping as effectively. Congestive heart failure can come on suddenly, this is known as acute CHF. It can also be a chronic condition, which means it is ongoing.
Symptoms of congestive heart failure may come and go. They also vary in severity. Symptoms of acute CHF may include, sudden fluid build-up, chest pain, shortness of breath and an irregular heartbeat. Similar symptoms occur with chronic congestive heart failure. Symptoms may include, fatigue, shortness of breath, swelling in the feet and hands, cough and fast heart rate.
Conditions which weaken the heart, such as a heart attack or cardiomyopathy, may lead to congestive heart failure. Other causes of CHF include high blood pressure, congenital heart defects and problems with the valves in the heart.
People who have certain medical condition, which may lead to heart damage, are at a higher risk of developing congestive heart failure. Conditions, such as diabetes, sleep apnea and coronary artery disease can cause damage to the heart and eventually CHF. Certain viral infections can also travel to the heart and weaken it. This can also lead to heart failure.
If your physician suspects congestive heart failure, several tests can be done to confirm a diagnosis. A chest x-ray, EKG and stress test may be performed. An echocardiogram, which can measure the heart’s ejection fraction, will likely be done. An ejection fraction determines how effectively the heart is pumping.
After a diagnosis is made, there are several treatments which may be recommended. For people who have chronic CHF, treatments may be needed for the rest of their life. However, with proper treatment some people can manage symptoms and the strength and pumping ability of the heart may improve.
Treatment for CHF may include Various cardiac medications to improve the hearts ability to pump. Medications may include beta blockers, which help slow the heart rate down. Blood pressure medications may also be given to treat hypertension. If fluid build-up is a problem, diuretics may be given. They reduce fluid build-up by causing urination more frequently to eliminate excess fluid.
There are several lifestyle chances which may also help reduce symptoms. People with CHF should maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight can make the heart work harder. Salt can lead to fluid retention and should be limited. Patients should also stop smoking, since smoking can damage the blood vessels and may cause the heart to work harder. After a doctor’s approval, moderate exercise may also help strengthen the heart.
American Heart Association