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Congestive Heart Failure: Causes, Treatments & Prevention

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What is Congestive Heart Failure?

Congestive heart failure(CHF) is a chronic condition affecting the heart’s pumping power (the heart does not pump blood as it should). It is commonly known as heart failure because, in this condition, the heart fails to pump blood efficiently.

Coronary heart diseases or high blood pressure generally contribute to the cause of the condition by weakening your heart.

The human heart consists of four chambers, two on the upper half known as atria and two on the lower half of the heart called ventricles. The atria are responsible for receiving blood from the body that circulates back from the body to the heart. The ventricles pump blood from the heart to the organs of the body and tissues.

Therefore, the condition occurs when the ventricles cannot pump blood to the body. Instead, it backs up blood and other fluids present inside the lungs, abdomen, liver, and lower body. Hence, CHF can be life-threatening and needs immediate medical treatment.

A Look at the Facts

  • Approximately 6.5 million United States adults experience heart failure. In 2017, 1 in every eight deaths in the United States was due to congestive heart failure.
  • The figure does not stop here. Around 550,000 cases undergo CHF diagnosis in the United States every year.
  • Such a chronic condition does affect humans irrespective of age. For example, 1.4 million people under 60 years experience CHF. 2% of these people are between 40 to 59. More than 5% of people aged 60 to 69 are affected by CHF.
  • After 65 years of age, among 1,000 people, ten experience congestive heart failure. Apart from age, CHF affects humans irrespective of gender.
  • It is the first listed in 875,000 hospitalizations when it comes to diagnosis. In addition, it is considered the most common diagnosis among patients aged 65 years and older.

The 4 Stages of Congestive Heart Failure?

CHF is of four stages that are as follows:-

  • Class I: It is the initial stage of the condition. The patient experiences mild signs and symptoms at the time of physical activity. If the patient gets to know about the initial phase of the disease, some changes in the lifestyle, medications, and regular monitoring can help manage.
  • Class II: It is the second stage of CHF in which you are more likely to take a rest. Regular physical activity may cause fatigue, shortness of breath, and palpitations.

Adopting healthy habits in their lifestyle, medications, and regular heart monitoring can help manage this stage.

  • Class III: The patient might have to take some limitations in their physical activities as even a mild exercise may cause fatigue, palpitations, or shortness of breath. Treatment at this stage can be complicated, and one should consult the doctor regularly. 
  • Class IV: It is the final stage of CHF. The patient will have noticeable signs and symptoms of CHF while performing physical activity. However, sometimes few symptoms show even when the person is at rest.

No specific treatments are available at this stage of the disease. Still, some preventive measures and healthy habits can help you improve your condition, quality of life, and palliative care options. 

One needs to discuss this with the doctor to improve the condition and know the signs and symptoms of the condition.

Also Read: 08 Best Ways To Prevent Heart Diseases

The Types of Congestive Heart Failure?

There are two types of the condition:-

Left-sided congestive heart failure

It is the most ordinary type of CHF. However, when the ventricles cannot pump blood to other body parts, it can lead to this condition. 

The condition can become severe as the fluids may build up in the lungs, causing a problem while breathing, so it is vital to treat it quickly.

It has two further categories:-

  • Systolic heart failure is a condition in which the left ventricles cannot contract properly, which causes the force to decrease and is responsible for pushing blood into the circulatory system. This force is responsible for the proper pumping of blood to the body.
  • Diastolic heart failure: It is a condition in which the heart muscles become stiff, causing difficulty for these muscles to relax within the optimum period. It is also known as heart failure with preserved ejection fraction,

As the muscles can no longer relax, the heart can’t fill with blood between heartbeats.

Right-sided congestive heart failure

It occurs when the right side ventricles face difficulty pumping blood to the lungs. Blood backs up in your blood arteries due to faulty right-sided ventricular function, producing fluid retention in the lower limbs, abdomen, and other critical organs.

It is possible to have both left and right-sided CHF simultaneously. Typically, such disease spreads from the left to the right side ventricles when left untreated.

What Usually Causes Congestive Heart Failure?

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Generally, the condition results from complications that damage or weaken your heart. However, it may not be the only reason for the damage. The condition can also occur when the heart muscles become stiff, causing difficulty for the heart to pump efficiently. The result is improper blood filling.

In some cases, the heart muscles may get damaged and weaken the ventricle strength so that it becomes difficult for the heart to pump efficiently throughout the body. In addition, with the increase in time, the heart will be unable to pump blood generally to the rest of the body.

An ejection fraction is an important measurement. It is used to know the health, classify heart failure, and guide Congestive heart failure treatment. The ejection fraction is 50% or higher for a healthy heart, which means that the heart pumps more than half of the blood that fills the ventricles with each heartbeat.

But in some cases, the condition can occur even with an average ejection fraction which usually occurs if the heart muscles are stiff because of high blood pressure. 

Congestive heart failure can occur due to both the heart’s left and right side(ventricles). Generally, it begins with the left side(left ventricle), the main pumping chamber.

CHF may also occur from other health complications other than those diseases that affect your heart directly. Some of the symptoms of these conditions can affect you unknowingly.

Coronary artery disease:

It is the most common form of heart disease that results in the condition because of the building up of plaque(fatty deposits) in the arteries. 

Its deposition results in narrowing the arteries that cause restrictions in blood flow. Such diseases may be the reason for CHF. 

High Blood Pressure:

Hypertension causes various other complications. CHF is one of them. High blood pressure increases the difficulty in blood flow, leading to an increase in the force of the heart.

If left untreated, it can make the heart muscles too stiff or weak, resulting in inefficient blood pumping.

Fault in heart valves:

The heart valves help the heart keep the direction of the flow of blood correctly. Any damage to them due to heart defects, coronary artery disease, or heart infection will increase pressure on the heart. This will lead to stiffness if not treated on time.


An acquired or genetic disease of the heart that causes damage to the heart muscles. Several conditions like infections, alcohol abuse, and toxic effects of drugs, such as cocaine and chemotherapy medicines, can cause the damage.


Is a form of heart muscle inflammation caused by a virus that is frequently triggered by left-sided heart failure. Inflammatory cardiomyopathy is another name for it.

Congestive heart defects:

Any defect in the heart’s structure at birth is called a congestive heart defect. Due to this defect, the healthier part of the heart has to experience the pressure to pump enough blood. Such conditions can lead to congestive heart failure if not treated.

Heart arrhythmias:

A group of conditions where the heart beats irregularly, either too slow or too fast than the optimum heart rate. It is also known as irregular heartbeat or cardiac dysrhythmia. 

Abnormal heart rhythm will make your heart work extra and lead to CHF.

Other complications:

Some chronic diseases may also lead to this weakened heart condition, such as diabetes, HIV, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, hemochromatosis(building of iron), or amyloidosis(buildup of amyloid proteins).

Apart from these diseases, some viruses that attack the heart muscles, severe infections, allergic reactions, clotting of blood in the lungs, some medications or illnesses that affect the whole body also contribute to developing the condition.

The Symptoms Of Congestive Heart Failure

During the initial stages of CHF, the person might not feel changes in health. But a person might experience changes when the condition gets worse. In addition, the symptoms may get worse if the state is left untreated.

Congestive heart failure symptoms have three categories according to their stages such as:-

  1. Initial Stage: At the time of the initial phase of CHF, people might experience symptoms, such as:-
  • Fatigue
  • Swelling in ankles, feet, and legs
  • Weight gain
  • Frequently urinating, especially during the night
  1. Secondary stage: The signs and symptoms of CHF might be noticeable when the condition gets worse, that includes:-
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Cough from congested lungs
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath indicating pulmonary edema
  1. Severe condition: Here is a list of symptoms that indicates severe congestive heart failure.
  • Chest pain that radiates through the body
  • Rapid breathing
  • Blue skin due to insufficient supply of oxygenated blood to the body
  • Fainting

Risk Factors Involved

Any of the factors mentioned below is enough to ignite the signs and symptoms of the heart condition, which include:-

  • High blood pressure
  • Coronary artery disease 
  • Heart attacks
  • Diabetes
  • Congestive heart defects
  • Valvular heart disease
  • Viruses
  • Heart Failure
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Tobacco abuse
  • Obesity
  • Irregular heart rhythm 
  • Sleep apnea
  • Diabetes drugs, such as rosiglitazone(Avandia) and pioglitazone(Actos),
  • Some other drugs may lead to heart failure and can increase the risk of heart problems, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs(NSAIDs), certain anaesthesia drugs, anti-arrhythmic drugs, medications to treat hypertension, cancer, blood conditions, urological conditions, inflammatory conditions. 

Talk to your doctor, he can help you resolve above mentioned health complications by prescribing medicines like Enapril 5 Mg, Atorva 5mg, or Cordarone 100mg for hypertension, heart failure, heart attack, irregular heartbeat, etc.

The chronic condition leads to various health complications that include:-

  • Kidney damage or failure: It causes insufficient blood supply to the body organs, such as the kidney, which can eventually damage the heart or lead to kidney failure. Such situations require dialysis for treatment.
  • Heart valve issues: Valves play a vital role in the heartbeat as it regulates blood flow within the heart. Any complications in these valves can lead to improper blood flow, causing heart enlargement. This may ultimately lead to heart failure.
  • Abnormal heart rhythm: Arrhythmias is a medical condition in which the heart beats irregularly and often results in congestive heart failure.
  • Damage to the liver: When a person has heart disease, the heart uses the bulk of the oxygen to maintain working. Other organs in the body, such as the liver, receive less of the same.

As a result, the organ is unable to function properly or normally. 

People suffering from CHF can improve their condition with proper treatment, even though it can be life-threatening. In some severe cases, people may require heart transplantation or support with a ventricular assist device.

Preventive Measures For CHF

The fundamental way to take preventive measures is to focus on the risk factors. You can control the risk factors that ignite the signs and symptoms of congestive heart failure by making healthy lifestyle changes and needed medications.

Here is a list of points that a person should keep in mind to reduce risk factors associated with the condition:-

  • Quit smoking
  • Manage high blood pressure and diabetes
  • Perform regular physical activity
  • Consume healthily diet
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Reducing and managing stress

Can Congestive Heart Failure be Reversed?

The condition can be treated and reversed. Following an assessment of your heart’s state, your doctor will take additional steps to address your CHFand begin necessary treatment.

Medication is used to begin therapy, and subsequently, additional treatments may be used to assist the heart get stronger. There are a variety of drugs that can help you improve your quality of life.

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Photo of author Janet Fudge
Janet Fudge is a highly skilled and experienced pharmacologist who serves as a contributing writer for With a strong academic background from a premier US University and a passion for helping others, Janet has become a trusted voice in the pharmaceutical world. After completing her Doctor of Pharmacy degree, Janet embarked on a successful career in the pharmaceutical industry, working with various clients, including hospitals, retail pharmacies, and drug manufacturers. Her in-depth knowledge of pharmacology and dedication to patient-centered care has led her to excel in her field. As a writer for, Janet uses her wealth of expertise to provide readers with accurate, reliable, and up-to-date information on various topics related to medicine and healthcare. Her engaging writing style and ability to break down complex topics into easily digestible content make her a valuable resource for healthcare professionals and the general public.
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