Ultimate Guide To Congestive Heart Failure


What Does Congestive Heart Failure Mean?

Congestive heart failure(CHF) is a type of chronic condition affecting the pumping power of the heart(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 congestive heart failure 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, and the ventricles pump blood from the heart to the organs of the body and tissues.

Therefore, congestive heart failure occurs when the ventricles are unable to pump blood to the body resulting in backing up of blood and other fluids present inside the lungs, abdomen, liver, and lower body. Hence, congestive heart failure can be life-threatening and needs immediate medical treatment.

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Facts About Congestive Heart Failure

  • Approximately 6.5 million United States adults experience heart failure. In 2017, 1 in every 8 deaths in the United States is caused due to congestive heart failure.
  • The figure has not stopped at this, around 550,000 cases undergo congestive heart failure diagnosis in the United States every year.
  • Such a chronic condition does affect humans irrespective of age. 1.4 million people of the age under 60 years experience congestive heart failure, out of which 2% of these people are aged between 40 to 59. More than 5% of people aged 60 to 69 are affected by congestive heart failure.
  • After 65 years of age, among 1,000 people, 10 persons experience congestive heart failure. Apart from age, congestive heart failure affects humans irrespective of gender.
  • African-Americans are at 1.5 times more likely to develop such heart failures as compared to Caucasians. It has resulted in 11 million patients to visit the physician and more hospitalizations than all forms of cancer.
  • When it comes to diagnosis, it is the first listed in 875,000 hospitalizations and is considered the most common diagnosis among patients aged 65 years and older.
  • Congestive heart failure contributes to approximately 287,000 deaths in one year. Deaths because of congestive heart failure have decreased by 12% per decade in the case of women and men over the last fifty years.


What Are The Congestive Heart Failure Stages?

Congestive heart failure is of four stages that are as follows:-

  • Class I: It is the initial stage of congestive heart failure in which the victim experiences mild signs and symptoms at the time of physical activity. In case the victim gets to know about the initial stage of the disease, it can be managed through some changes in the lifestyle, heart medications, and regular monitoring.
  • Class II: It is the second stage of congestive heart failure in which you are more likely to take rest as normal physical activity may cause fatigue, shortness of breath, and palpitations.

    This stage can be managed by adopting healthy habits in their lifestyle, heart medications, and regular monitoring of the heart.
  • Class III: It is the stage in which the victim might have to take some limitations in their physical activities as even a mild exercise may cause fatigue, palpitations, or shortness in breath. Treatment at this stage can be complicated, and it is recommended to consult the doctor regularly. 
  • Class IV: It is the final stage of congestive heart failure in which time will come when the victim will have noticable signs and symptoms of congestive heart failure while performing any physical activity. Sometimes few symptoms will be presented even when the victim is at rest.

There is not any specific treatment at this stage of the disease, but some of the preventive measures and healthy habits can help you improve your condition, quality of life, and palliative care options. 

You will have to discuss this with your doctor in order to improve your condition and to know the risk factors that can enhance the signs and symptoms of congestive heart failure.


What Are The Types Of Congestive Heart Failure?

Congestive heart failure is generally categorized into two types:-

1. Left-sided congestive heart failure: It is the most ordinary type of congestive heart failure that is caused when these ventricles are unable to pump blood to other parts of the body. With time, if it is not treated, the condition can become severe as the fluids may build up in the lungs, causing a problem while breathing.

It is further categorized into two categories, such as:-

  • Systolic heart failure: It is a condition in which the left ventricles are unable to 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 muscles of the heart become stiff, causing difficulty for these muscles to relax within the optimum period of time. It is also known as heart failure with preserved ejection fraction,

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

2. Right-sided congestive heart failure: It occurs when the right side ventricles face difficulty in pumping blood to the lungs. Because of the improper functioning of right-sided ventricles, blood backs up in your blood vessels, causing fluid retention in the lower extremities, abdomen, and other vital organs.

It is possible to have both left and right-sided congestive heart failure simultaneously. Typically such disease starts to spread from the left to the right side ventricles when left untreated.


What Causes Congestive Heart Failure?

Generally, congestive heart failure is caused due to other complications that damage or weaken your heart. But that doesn’t mean a weakening of heart always causes congestive heart failure. It can also be caused when the heart muscles become stiff, causing difficulty to the heart to pump efficiently.

Apart from other diseases that may lead to congestive heart failure, heart muscle stiffness, or damage to the heart may also lead to congestive heart failure. In case when the main pumping chambers(the ventricles) of the heart become stiff, it becomes difficult for the heart to beat, causing improper filling of the blood.

In some cases, the heart muscles may get damaged and weaken the ventricle strength in such a manner that it becomes difficult for the heart to pump efficiently throughout the body. With the increase in time, the heart will be unable to pump blood normally to the rest of the body.

An ejection fraction is an important measurement used to know the health of the heart and also help in classifying heart failure and guide treatment. For a healthy heart, the ejection fraction is considered to be 50% or higher, which means that with each heartbeat, the heart pumps more than half of the blood that fills the ventricles.

But in some cases, congestive heart failure can occur even with a normal 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 left and right side(ventricles) of the heart. Generally, it begins with the left side(left ventricle) which is the main pumping chamber.

Congestive heart failure 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 congestive heart failure because of the building up of plaque(fatty deposits) in the arteries. Its deposition results in narrowing of the arteries that cause restrictions in the flow of blood. Such diseases may cause congestive heart failure.
  • High Blood Pressure: Hypertension causes various other complications. Congestive heart failure is one of them. High blood pressure increases the difficulty in the flow of blood that leads to an increase in pressure of the heart.

    If left untreated, it can make the muscles of the heart too stiff or weak, resulting in inefficient pumping of blood.
  • Fault in heart valves: The heart valves help the heart in keeping the direction of the flow of blood correctly. Any damage to them due to heart defects, coronary artery disease, or heart infection will increase in pressure on the heart and can also lead to stiffness if not treated on time.
  • Cardiomyopathy: It is an acquired or hereditary disease of the heart that causes damage to the heart muscles. This damage can be caused due to several conditions, infections, alcohol abuse, toxic effects of drugs, such as cocaine, medicines used for chemotherapy.
  • Myocarditis: It is a type of inflammation of the heart muscles that leads to left-sided heart failure commonly caused by a virus. It is also known as inflammatory cardiomyopathy.
  • Congestive heart defects: Any defect in the structure of the heart, which is present at the time of birth is called congestive heart defects. Due to this defect, the healthier part of the heart has to experience the pressure to pump blood throughout the body. Such conditions can lead to congestive heart failure if not treated.
  • Heart arrhythmias: It is a group of conditions in which the heart beats irregularly, either too slow or too fast than the optimum rate. It is also known as irregular heartbeat or cardiac dysrhythmia.

    Abnormal heart rhythm will make your heart work extra and can lead to congestive heart failure.
  • Other complications: Some of the chronic diseases may also lead to congestive heart failures, 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 illness that affects the whole body also contribute in developing congestive heart failure.


What Are The Symptoms For Congestive Heart Failure?

During the initial stages of congestive heart failure, the person might not feel changes in health. But a person might experience changes when the condition gets worse. The symptoms may get worse if the condition is left untreated.

Congestive heart failure symptoms are classified into three categories according to its stages, such as:-

Initial Stage: At the time of the initial phase of congestive heart failure people might experience symptoms, such as:-

  • Fatigue
  • Swelling in ankles, feet, and legs
  • Weight gain
  • Frequently urinating, especially during the night

At worse stage: The signs and symptoms of congestive heart failure might be noticable when the condition gets worse, that includes:-

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Cough from congested lungs
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath indicating pulmonary edema

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

Also Read: Know If Anger Can Affect Heart

Congestive Heart Failure Risk Factors

Any of the factors mentioned below is enough to ignite the signs and symptoms of congestive heart failure which includes:-

  • High blood pressure
  • Coronary artery disease 
  • Heart attack
  • Diabetes
  • Congestive heart defects
  • Valvular heart disease
  • Viruses
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Tobacco abuse
  • Obesity
  • Irregular heart rhythm 
  • Sleep apnea
  • Diabetes drugs, such as rosiglitazone(Avandia) and pioglitazone(Actos), increases the risk of congestive heart failure.

There are some other drugs that may lead to heart failure and can increase the risk of heart problems, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs(NSAIDs), certain anesthesia drugs, anti-arrhythmic drugs, medications to treat hypertension, cancer, blood conditions, urological conditions, inflammatory conditions. 

It is recommended to talk to your doctor before and after taking any medicine in order to avoid health complications.


Complications Related To Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive heart failure leads to various health complications that include:-

  • Kidney damage or failure: Congestive heart failure causes the insufficient supply of blood to the body organs, such as a kidney that can eventually damage the heart or may also lead to kidney failure. Such situations require dialysis for treatment.
  • Heart valve issues: Valves play a vital role in the heartbeat as it regulates the flow of blood within the heart. Any complications in these valves can lead to improper flow of blood within the heart, causing the heart to enlarge due to pressure created due to inadequate flow of blood within the heart and leads to heart failure.
  • Abnormal heart rhythm: Arrhythmias is a medical condition in which the heart beats irregularly and is considered as the major complication of congestive heart failure.
  • Damage to the liver: Congestive heart failure secrets fluids that increase pressure on the liver as this fluid leads to scarring, causing difficulty for the liver to function efficiently.

People suffering from congestive heart failure 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 manage to control the risk factors that ignite the signs and symptoms of congestive heart failure by making healthy lifestyle changes along with needed medications.

Here is a list of points that a person should keep in mind in order to reduce risk factors associated with congestive heart failure:-

  • Quit smoking
  • Take care of high blood pressure and diabetes
  • Perform regular physical activity
  • Consume healthily diet
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Reducing and managing stress
Henry Garcia

Henry holds a diploma in Linguistics and is fluent in both, written and verbal Spanish. He is an avid reader and loves to stay updated about the healthcare industry. If you are reading about any major breakthrough in the medical field, know that Henry is the one who brought it to you.