Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a condition in which the heart is unable to pump adequate blood to meet the body’s needs.
Contrary to popular belief, congestive heart failure does not mean the heart has stopped working. Rather, it means that the heart is functioning less efficiently than it does ideally.
The most common symptoms of congestive heart failure include shortness of breath, fatigue, and fluid build-up. Left untreated, CHF can lead to serious complications, including heart attack and death.
There are two types of congestive heart failure, depending on whether it occurs on the left or right side of the heart. Furthermore, congestive heart classification is also determined in terms of diastolic heart failure and systolic heart failure.
Left-sided heart failure
It is the most common type of heart failure that occurs when the left ventricle of the heart is not pumping blood efficiently.
The blood backs up in the lungs instead, which prevents the body from receiving an adequate amount of oxygenated blood. This causes shortness of breath and fluid build-up in the lungs.
Right-sided heart failure
Right-sided heart failure occurs when the right ventricle (which is responsible for pumping blood in the lungs for oxygenation) is not working efficiently.
This is often triggered by left-sided failure as the workload on the right ventricle increases due to blood accumulation in the lungs.
Swelling in the lower extremities due to fluid backup in the legs and abdomen area are the common symptoms of right-sided heart failure.
Diastolic heart failure
Stiffness of heart muscles due to disease causes diastolic heart failure.
Stiffer heart muscles make it difficult for the heart to fill in blood and pump it adequately all over the body. This is called diastolic dysfunction. It is more common in females than males.
Systolic heart failure
The heart contracts to pump oxygenated blood all over the body. However, when it loses the ability to contract efficiently, it leads to systolic dysfunction.
This is usually caused due to heart disease or heart enlargement. Systolic heart failure is more common in males than in females.
The most common congestive heart failure symptoms are as follows:
- Shortness of breath
- Irregular heartbeats
- Heart palpitations
- Swelling in lower extremities and abdomen area
- Sudden weight gain
- Persistent cough
Congestive heart failure is most commonly caused due to coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD is a disorder that is characterised by the narrowing of blood-supplying arteries.
Other common congestive heart failure causes include:
- Heart attack
- Congenital heart disease
- Heart valve disease
- Heart arrhythmias
- Lung diseases such as emphysema
Many treatment options are available for congestive heart failure, depending on the underlying cause and severity of the condition.
The most common congestive heart failure treatment options include lifestyle changes, medications, and surgery.
1. Lifestyle changes
Making simple lifestyle changes can often help improve congestive heart failure symptoms. These changes include eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and avoiding alcohol and tobacco.
Medications are often used to treat the early stages of congestive heart failure.
Different medications are prescribed to prevent the formation of blood clots, improve the heart’s ability to blood circulation, control high levels of cholesterol, etc.
The most common medications used include diuretics, ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, hydralazine, and nitrates.
In the later stages of congestive heart failure, surgery may be necessary to treat the condition.
Different kinds of surgeries are performed depending upon the severity of the case, as well as the congestive heart failure stage and the patient’s overall health. Some of the most common surgeries for CHF include:
- Bypass surgery
- Percutaneous coronary intervention
- Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD)
- Complete heart transplant surgery
Congestive heart failure is a potentially fatal condition if left untreated. Blood retention in different parts of the body can be life-threatening.
There are several other serious complications of congestive heart failure as well. These include:
- Kidney dysfunction and kidney failure
- Heart arrhythmias
When living with congestive heart failure, it’s important for patients to take steps to manage their condition and improve their quality of life. Here are 5 tips for better management of congestive heart failure:
1. Keeping track of symptoms
Patients must keep track of their CHF symptoms so that they can report any changes to their doctor. This is the first step towards better management of congestive heart failure.
Pay attention to symptoms like shortness of breath, fatigue, swelling in the legs or ankles, and difficulty sleeping.
2. Following the treatment plan
Patients on medication should ensure they take it as prescribed. Those who have been prescribed to make certain lifestyle changes, such as exercising or eating a heart-healthy diet, must incorporate them diligently.
3. Monitoring the weight
Carrying excess weight or being obese puts an extra strain on the heart. Thus, it is crucial for patients to keep their weight in check for better management of congestive heart failure.
4. Avoiding tobacco
Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease. Hence, quitting is one of the best things we can do for our health.
5. Limiting alcohol intake
Drinking too much alcohol can also put a strain on the heart. It is important to limit alcohol intake for better CHF management.
Congestive heart failure is a serious condition that occurs when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to the rest of the body. If left untreated, CHF can lead to serious complications, including death. Early diagnosis and treatment of CHF are essential to preventing these serious outcomes.
The CK Birla Hospital has a team of internationally reputed cardiologists with expertise in all cardiac-related issues, including pediatric cardiac issues, under one roof.
Department of Cardiology at the CK Birla Hospital is equipped with all the modern facilities and technologies to provide the best patient care. Visit your nearest facility or book an appointment with Dr Sanjeeva Kumar Gupta today to consult with the best cardiologists in the country.