Congestive heart failure is a highly common condition that affects nearly 10 million Indian every year. It is one of the leading causes of hospitalization, especially in older people. However, most people take congestive heart failure literally, when it’s not.
What is Congestive Heart Failure?
Congestive heart failure is a chronic and progressive condition that affects the pumping power of the heart muscles.
It represents a stage of heart failure in which fluids build around the heart muscles, making it difficult to pump blood.
Let’s see what exactly happens in congestive heart failure.
The heart is made of four chambers, the upper half has two atria, and lower half has two ventricles. The function of ventricles is to pump blood to the body (organs and tissues), and atria receive the blood from the body and circulate it back from the rest of the body. Congestive heart failure develops when the heart is unable to pump sufficient blood to your body resulting in blood and other fluids backing up inside the body. It can be a life-threatening condition, and failure to provide medical assistance can even cause death.
Congestive heart failure may or may not show symptoms, depending on the stage of the condition. Symptoms can also be temporary or permanent and can come and go. The most common ones are:
Congestion in the Lungs
Fluid can back up into the lungs which can cause difficulty in breathing and can induce a hazing or a dry cough.
Weakness, Dizziness and Fatigue
As soon as the pumping action of the heart is reduced, there is less blood sent to the organs which can make the patient feel weak and tired. Less blood to the brain can cause extreme dizziness and can further complicate the condition.
Water and Fluid Retention
If the pumping action of the heart is affected, it circulates less blood to the kidneys, resulting in swollen legs and abdomen (oedema).
Irregularity in the Heartbeat
Congestive heart failure puts pressure on the heart to pump more blood because of decreased function. The heart will beat faster causing irregular heartbeats.
What are the causes?
Congestive heart disease can occur because of conditions that can directly affect your cardiovascular system. It is important to get complete heart checkups regularly, especially if you are above 30 years of age. Complete heart check-up will highlight any withstanding problems and doctors will be in a better position to treat the condition.
If it is higher than normal blood pressure, it can cause congestive heart failure. Hypertension occurs when blood vessels become still, thereby making it harder to pass blood through them.
Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary arteries supply blood to the heart. Excess of cholesterol and other fatty substances can block these arteries. Narrow coronary arteries are prone to damage as they can restrict the blood flow to the heart and sudden blockage of coronary arteries is one of the reasons for heart attack.
It is a progressive heart disease in which the heart is abnormally enlarged because of reasons other than artery or blood flow. Infections, drugs or alcohol are the leading factors that cause cardiomyopathy.
Certain conditions can lead to coronary artery disease including diabetes, obesity and even thyroid.
Is there any treatment available?
Today, with the advent of medical sciences, there are several treatments available for congestive heart failure. The goal of treating a congestive heart failure is to make the heart beat more efficiently. A combination of medications is usually used to treat a congestive heart failure treatment.
Congestive Heart Failure is treated with medications such as diuretics to remove the excess fluid. ACE inhibitors are used to open blood vessels and reduce blood pressure. Medications are also used to reduce sodium and water retention in the heart which helps the organ pump blood more effectively. Some beta-blockers are used to slow down the heart rate and reduce the workload.
Changes in the Lifestyle
One of the primary changes is done to the lifestyle to control congestive heart failure from going to the next stage. Gentle but regular physical activity is advised. Patient must stop smoking and adhere to a low-salt and low-fat diet. Restriction on alcohol is also implemented.
In some cases, with advanced congestive heart failure, medicines and lifestyle changes are not enough. Medical procedures are often recommended in such cases:
In advanced cases of congestive heart failure, narrowed or leaking heart valves are repaired or replaced with a mechanical valve.
It is used to open a blocked artery where the doctor places a stent to help the blood vessel remain open.
Coronary Bypass Surgery
This surgery is used to reroute blood vessels so the blood can travel throughout the body, avoiding blocked blood vessels.
A heart transplant is the only choice for people with severe congestive heart failure.
Congestive heart failure is treatable. If you or a loved one is suffering from a cardiovascular disease, it is imperative to get an expert advice. Remember, lifestyle changes go a long way in improving your wellness and are highly recommended for someone who has a heart condition.