Heart Failure

What is heart failure

     Heart failure does not mean the heart has stopped working. Rather, it means that the heart works less efficiently than normal. Heart failure is a condition in which your heart can’t pump enough blood to make your body work well. While often referred to simply as “heart failure,” CHF specifically refers to the stage in which fluid builds up around the heart and causes it to pump inefficiently. Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a chronic progressive condition that affects the pumping power of your heart muscles. It develops over time as your heart becomes weak or stiff to fill and pump efficiently step by step because of some conditions, such as high blood pressure. Roughly 700,000 people are diagnosed with heart failure each year.

     You have four heart chambers. The upper half of your heart has two atria, and the lower half of your heart has two ventricles. The ventricles pump blood to your body’s organs and tissues, and the atria receive blood from your body as it circulates back from the rest of your body. Not all conditions that lead to heart failure can be reversed, but treatments can improve the signs and symptoms of heart failure and help you live longer.  Due to various possible causes, blood moves through the heart and body at a slower rate, and pressure in the heart increases. The inefficient pumping associated with heart failure causes a backup of blood in the veins leading to the heart.

Types of Heart failure:

  1. Left sided Heart failure (Fluid may back up in your lungs, causing shortness of breath).
  2. Right sided Heart failure (Fluid may back up into your abdomen, legs and feet, causing swelling).
  3. Congestive heart failure

Symptoms of Heart failure:

    When the right ventricle cannot pump blood adequately, blood backs up into the veins that return blood to the right heart. Fluid then leaks out of veins and capillaries. The first symptom of heart failure often is fatigue. As the condition worsens, shortness of breath and wheezing occur during exertion.

Fluid buildup from heart failure may cause the following signs and symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea) when you exert yourself or when you lie down.
  • Right heart failure symptoms include weight gain that can occur gradually or quickly, leg swelling and/or peripheral edemaand increased urination.
  • Fatigue and weakness.
  • Swelling (edema) in your legs, ankles and feet.
  • Left heart failure symptoms include shortness of breath on exertion, fatigueand exercise intolerance, shortness of breath when lying flat.
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat.
  • Reduced ability to exercise.
  • There are a variety of illnesses and diseases that affect the heart’s pumping capability.
  • Persistent cough or wheezing with white or pink blood-tinged phlegm.
  • Heart failureis a condition whereby the heart muscle is unable to adequately pump blood throughout the body.
  • Increased need to urinate at night.
  • Swelling of your abdomen.
  • Very rapid weight gain from fluid retention.
  • Lack of appetite and nausea.
  • Some people urinate several times during the night as the kidneys drain off some of this excess fluid. 
  • Difficulty concentrating or decreased alertness
  • Sudden, severe shortness of breath and coughing up pink, foamy mucus
  • Chest pain if your heart failure is caused by a heart attack.
  • When both the right and left sides of the heart fail to pump adequately, the symptoms and signs of both right and left heart failure develop. The person may complaint of swelling in the legs and feet as well as shortness of breath.
  • Other symptoms of CHF may include dizziness, weakness, or fatigue, as well as a rapid or irregular heartbeat, adds the source.

Causes for Heart Failure

     Heart failure often develops after other conditions have damaged or weakened your heart. However, the heart doesn’t need to be weakened to cause heart failure. It can also occur if the heart becomes too stiff. Conditions that damage your heart muscle can result in heart failure. These conditions involve:

  • Ischemic heart disease occurs when a waxy substance called plaque builds up in the arteries supplying oxygen-rich blood to your heart muscle (coronary arteries).
  • Plaque not only narrows the arteries and reduces blood flow, but also makes it more possible for blood clots to take shape in your artery. Under this circumstance, you may have chest pain, angina, a heart attack and heart damage.
  • High Blood pressure.
  • Damage to the heart muscle.
  • If you have diabetes, it means your blood glucose (sugar) level is much higher than it should be. It can damage and weaken the heart muscle and the blood vessels around the heart, causing heart failure eventually.
  • Exposure to toxins, including excessive alcohol.
  • Blood pressure refers to the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries. Similar to high blood glucose level, high blood pressure is also harmful to your heart.
  • Other heart conditions or diseases may also cause heart failure, such as arrhythmia, cardiomyopathy, congenital heart defects and heart valve disease.
  • Faulty heart valves.
  • Alcohol abuse or cocaine and other illegal drug use.
  • Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle. Its most commonly caused by a virus and can lead to left-sided heart failure.
  • HIV/AIDS.
  • Abnormal heart rhythms. Abnormal heart rhythms may cause your heart to beat too fast, creating extra work for your heart. A slow heartbeat also may lead to heart failure.
  • Thyroid disorders (having either too much or too little thyroid hormone in the body).
  • Too much vitamin E.
  • Heart valve disorders (including rheumatic heart disease).
  • Treatments for cancer such as radiation and chemotherapy.

Diagnosis

     Your doctor will review your medical history and ask for details about your symptoms. Your doctor will also check for the presence of risk factors, such as high blood pressure, coronary artery disease or diabetes.

  • How many blocks you can walk without becoming short of breath.
  • The number of pillows you sleep on.
  • Whether you suddenly wake up after falling asleep because of severe shortness of breath.
  • Blood test.
  • Chest X.ray.
  • Stress test.
  • CT scan.
  • Flexible biopsy cord.

Treatment

     Heart failure is a chronic disease needing lifelong management. However, with treatment, signs and symptoms of heart failure can improve, and the heart sometimes becomes stronger.

  • Heart transplant.
  • Bypass surgery.
  • Heart valve repair or replacement.

Treatment may help you live longer and reduce your chance of dying suddenly. But for most people, the treatment of heart failure involves a balance of the right medications and in some cases use of devices that help the heart beat and contract properly.

 

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