Overview of Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)

Overview of Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)

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Congestive heart failure (CHF) is the term used to describe what occurs when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. (It should not be confused with cardiac arrest in which the heart stops beating entirely.) CHF is simply the inadequate functioning of the heart muscle. The condition can either be acute, meaning it occurs rapidly or chronic, which means it happens over the long term.

Severe cases may require an implantable cardiac device to improve the strength or rhythm of the heart. In the worst-case scenario, a heart transplant may be necessary.

Characteristic symptoms of left-sided heart failure include:

  • Dry hacking or wheezing
  • Rales and crackling sounds in the lungs
  • Abnormal “galloping” heart sounds
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath, especially when lying flat or during exertion

Complications

Kidney failure can happen when reduced blood circulation allows waste products to accumulate in the body. If severe, dialysis or a kidney transplant may be required.

Liver damage- This commonly happens with advanced right-sided heart failure when the heart fails to supply the liver with the blood it needs to function, leading to portal hypertension (high blood pressure in the liver), cirrhosis, and liver failure.

Lung damage-, including empyema (accumulation of pus), pneumothorax (collapsed lung), and pulmonary fibrosis (lung scarring) which is a common complication of pleural effusion.

Causes

Causes of CHF contain coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, heart valve disease, infection, excessive alcohol use, or a previous heart attack.

The word “congestive” refers to the build-up of fluid in the veins and tissues of the lungs and other parts of the body. It is this congestion that triggers many of the characteristic symptoms of CHF.

Treatment

The treatment of congestive heart failure is focused on reducing symptoms and preventing the progression of the disease. It also requires treatment for the underlying reason for the failure, whether it is an infection, a heart disorder, or a chronic inflammatory disease.

Achieve and Maintain a Healthy Weight: If you are overweight, you may need to work with a nutritionist to first determine your ideal weight and daily calorie intake, and then to design a safe and sustainable low-sodium diet.

Stop Smoking: There is no safe amount of smoking. Smoking contributes to the development of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), making your heart work much harder than it usually would have to.

Exercise Regularly: You need to find an exercise plan you can sustain and build upon to get stronger. Try starting with no less than 30 minutes of exercise three times per week, incorporating cardio and strength training. Working with a personal trainer can help ensure the suitable workout routine, which is one that neither overtaxes you nor leaves you unchallenged.

Reduce Alcohol Intake: While an occasional drink may not do you any harm, moderate alcohol intake can sometimes complicate left-sided heart failure, particularly in people with alcohol-induced cardiomyopathy

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