Congestive Heart Failure: Symptoms, Causes, and Management

Man having a heart attack
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Did you know that the incidence of congestive heart failure has been progressively rising during the past decade? According to the American Heart Association, approximately five million Americans have been diagnosed with congestive heart failure (CHF). More than 500,000 new cases are diagnosed annually in the United States alone. Due to the increasing number of individuals with CHF, healthcare practitioners in Heber strongly emphasize the importance of immediate cardiology consultation.

What Is Congestive Heart Failure?

Congestive heart failure is a chronic condition that is characterized by the inability of the heart muscles to pump adequate blood into different organs of the body. This leads to accumulation of fluids in the heart, lungs, and other adjacent organs. As a result, there is increased resistance around the heart, which causes fluid buildup in the four chambers of the heart. Due to inefficient pumping of blood, other organ systems that are distant from the heart lack blood, oxygen, and nutrients.

What Causes Heart Failure?

Having a heart attackHeart failure is a multifactorial disease that occurs due to damage to the chambers, valves, and vessels that regulate blood flow to and from the heart. Poorly controlled hypertension causes ineffective pumping due to progressively increased resistance, which alters normal circulation to the heart. Valvular disorders such as mitral valve prolapse, mitral stenosis, and aortic regurgitation, are other conditions that contribute to the abnormal pooling of blood in the heart. Abnormal heart rhythm also dysregulates the pumping action of the heart, which also predisposes an individual to developing heart failure.

What Are the Symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure?

Difficulty of breathing is the primary presenting symptom of patients with heart failure. Since excess fluid flows back into the lungs, the tissue is unable to expand freely, which results in restricted airflow into the lungs. Thus, patients experience shortness of breath that worsens when lying down and improves when sitting upright.

You may also experience chronic cough or blood-tinged phlegm due to fluid buildup in the lung tissue. As the condition progresses, individuals may experience ankle, foot, and leg swelling due to pooling of blood in the dependent areas of the body. Other associated symptoms include fatigue, weakness, and heartbeat irregularities.

How Is Congestive Heart Failure Managed?

Congestive heart failure requires physical examination and laboratory testing to ensure diagnosis. Blood exams through measurement of a chemical called N-terminal pro-B type natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP) is a specific test to check for this condition. This compound is a marker of heart muscle damage, which becomes elevated in cases of heart failure. Electrocardiogram (ECG) can also be used to check for abnormalities in the electrical activity of the heart, which may be an inciting factor of heart failure.

Medical management is the mainstay of treatment in patients with heart failure. Treatment is focused on the maintenance of blood pressure and reduction of excess fluid.

Progressive end-organ failure is one of the most common causes of death among individuals with CHF. Therefore, it is crucial to undergo routine testing and laboratory workup as advised by a cardiologist to prevent irreversible complications.

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