If a layperson with no medical background at all were to hear a doctor say, “Your father has congestive heart failure,” they may become alarmed immediately and think that the heart has stopped working. However, this is not the case. Heart failure simply means that the pumping power of the heart is weaker than normal. Due to this, the flow of the blood throughout the heart and the body occurs at a slower rate, and pressure in the heart increases to compensate. As a result of the weakening of the heart, the oxygen supply and nutrients pumped throughout the body becomes inadequate to meet its demands.
The normal heart consists of four chambers, two atria which lie superiorly to two ventricles. In response to congestive heart failure as mentioned above, pressure in the heart increases, this means that the chambers of the heart may respond by stretching to hold more blood to pump throughout the body. The chambers may also begin to become stiff and thicken over time. The blood keeps moving; however the heart muscle walls eventually will weaken and begin to pump insufficiently.
Once the heart begins to pump insufficiently and meeting the demands of the body becomes inadequate, other organs also begin showing insufficiencies. The kidneys, for example, may respond by causing the body to retain fluid and sodium. If unnoticed and fluid begins to build up in the arms, legs, ankles, feet, lungs or other organs, the body becomes congested as a result. This ultimately is where the term “congestive heart failure” stems from.
Heart failure can be caused by many conditions that cause damage to the heart muscle, including: coronary artery disease, having a heart attack, cardiomyopathy, or other conditions that cause the heart to be overworked. In coronary artery disease there is a decrease in blood flow to the heart muscle and if the arteries become blocked or extremely narrowed, the heart will become starved for its oxygen and nutrients. A heart attack occurs when a coronary artery suddenly becomes blocked causing ischemia to a certain area of the heart muscle, which damages the area and causes scarring and a scarred area never will function as normal. Conditions that a patient may have that will result in the heart being overworked may include: HTN, thyroid disease, kidney disease, diabetes, heart defects, etc.
Just as with most other abnormal conditions that go on in the body, the signs and symptoms of CHF may range from mild to severe and they may come and go or be constant. These may include congestion in the lungs, fluid and water retention, unexplained weight gain of five or more pounds in a week, dizziness, fatigue, weakness, tachycardia, or arrhythmias. If you experience any of the mentioned signs and symptoms it would be in your best interest to consult with your medical provider for further tests to determine the etiology of your problems and begin treatment if necessary. To help in diagnosis of CHF an individualized and specific physical examination will most likely be carried out.
If diagnosis is indeed confirmed, strict control over medication regimen and lifestyle, along with carefully monitoring for signs and symptoms of CHF to report are the first steps for treatment. If further progression of CHF would occur, more advanced treatment will then be initiated by the appropriate provider. You as the patient, along with your provider can come up with the best treatment for your own personal situation.
Our company has a program available for congestive heart failure (CHF). If admitted here with us, you or your loved one will receive a specialized CHF Kit that contains tools to help monitor your disease process. Also enclosed in the CHF Kit is teaching material to help ensure our patients and caregivers are aware of all aspects CHF treatment. You will not be alone in your journey, because with us you will always be informed of the best treatment options.