CHF or congestive heart failure is a chronic and progressive condition that affects the pumping action of the heart muscles. When this happens, blood is not able to move efficiently through the circulatory system, and the ventricles are unable to pump sufficient amount of blood to the body. As a result, blood and other fluids start accumulating inside the liver, lungs, abdomen and lower body.
Any delay in congestive heart failure treatment can be life-threatening. We at Max Healthcare advise seeking immediate medical attention if someone is suspected of having CHF.
What are the Causes of Congestive Heart Failure?
CHF is a result of a combination of health conditions that directly affect the cardiovascular system. The common causes of congestive heart failure include:
- Cardiomyopathy or weakened heart muscle
- Damaged heart valves
- Blocked coronary arteries
- Congenital heart diseases
- Prolonged and serious rrhythm problems
Therefore, Dr. Gaurav Minocha, Principal Consultant, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Vaishali says that it is important to get regular checkups done in order to keep the heart’s health intact.
Lifestyle habits that aggravate congestive heart failure include:
- Alcohol or cocaine abuse
- Lack of physical activity and obesity
- High salt intake – this may lead to fluid retention in the body
Symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure
Patients most likely do not notice any changes in the health in the early stages of congestive heart failure. However, when the condition progresses, they start experiencing gradual changes in the body.
Symptoms That a Patient Notices First Include:
- Weight gain
- Swelling of legs, ankle and feet
- Increased urge to urinate, especially at night
Signs That Indicate the Condition Has Worsened:
- Congested lungs followed by a cough
- Irregular heartbeat
- Wheezing and shortness of breath
Signs That Indicate the Heart Condition Is Severe:
- Rapid breathing
- Bluish skin – due to lack of oxygen in the lungs
- Chest pain
If the patient experiences any of the symptoms that point to a severe heart condition, they should never delay seeking medical attention from a good cardiologist for timely treatment of the condition.
Types of Heart Failure
Systolic dysfunction and diastolic dysfunction are the two types of heart failure.
Systolic Heart Failure – Also known as Systolic dysfunction, this condition occurs when the pumping action of heart reduces or weakens. The Ejection fraction in this condition goes below the threshold of 50%.
Diastolic Heart Failure – Also known as diastolic dysfunction, this condition occurs when the heart becomes less compliant or stiff when filling with blood. It is common in people above 75 years of age, especially in those suffering from high blood pressure. The Ejection fraction is normal in this condition.
What Tests are performed to Diagnose Congestive Heart Failure?
Common tests done to diagnose congestive heart failure include:
- Electrocardiogram – An electrocardiogram efficiently records the hearts rhythm and brings to notice any abnormality.
- Echo or Echocardiogram – This test uses sound waves to check the functioning of the heart. An echo helps in determining if the patient has any muscle damage, poor blood flow, and abnormal contraction of heart muscle. It gives information about EF or Ejection fraction which is an indication of heart function, normal EF being 50 to 70%
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – This test takes both still and moving pictures of the heart and helps the doctors in diagnosing if there is any structural abnormality or damage to the heart.
- Stress Test – This test is performed to access how the heart performs when in stress. When the heart works harder, it makes it easier for the doctor to diagnose conditions with restricted blood flow i.e coronary blockages as ECG changes or Echo changes would appear or worsen
- Coronary Angiography - This is done to rule out blocked arteries and treat the blocks in case they exist as it would help improve heart function.
- Blood Test – BUN, creatinine, CBC, glucose and electrolytes, Thyroid function and cardiac enzymes are some of the tests doctors conduct when they diagnose CHF.
It is therefore important to be aware of symptoms of heart failure as early diagnosis and treatment can help to prevent progression of heart failure and save a life.