Congestive heart failure, also called CHF, is a serious disease when the heart muscles have been damaged or has to work hard due to other diseases. Common complications of a heart attack and other types of heart disease that damage the heart can result in CHF. Congestive heart disease can affect both right and left sides of the heart, but can affect one more than the other. In left-sided congestive heart failure, the left side is damaged and is unable to pump blood from the heart to the body.
When this occurs, blood backs you into the lungs and increases pressure in the lungs. The pressure causes fluid to build up in the lungs, which can be life-threatening. With right-sided congestive heart failure, the heart is damaged and unable to properly pump the blood flowing from the body back to the heart. This causes a backup of blood and an increase of pressure in the veins that carry the blood to the heart. This results in swelling, also called edema, of the lower extremities or other areas of the body.
Congestive heart failure symptoms occur due to the lack of oxygen in the tissues of the body. This happens because the heart is damaged and does not pump the blood efficiently. Symptoms may develop slowly, or you may not have symptoms until the congestive heart failure has progressed and is severe. Damage to the left-side of the heart can cause shortness of breath or difficulty breathing due to the buildup of fluid in the lungs. The shortness of breath or difficulty breathing can occur at rest or with exertion.
The buildup of fluid in the lungs can also cause wheezing, chest pain, or productive blood tinged phlegm. Right-sided damage to the heart, resulting in CHF, symptoms primarily is swelling of feet and ankles. It can be severe and swelling can be in the legs, abdomen, upper extremities, and even the face. Other symptoms can be weakness, weight gain, and fatigue. Treatment of congestive heart failure depends on the type and severity of the heart failure. The prognosis depends on the underlying cause, the person’s age, coexisting diseases, and the person’s overall health.
General treatments are living a healthy lifestyle, eating a heart-healthy diet, taking periods of rest daily and participating in regular medical treatment. Medication treatments such as ACE inhibitors and Beta-blockers are given to lower blood pressure and reduce strain on the heart. Anticoagulants are given for the prevent formation of blood clots. Digitalis drugs slow strengthen the heart beat and diuretics can be given to pull excess fluid out of the lungs and the tissues of the body. Some people may require a surgical treatment such as angioplasty, for those who have severely blocked coronary arteries.
Coronary bypass is another treatment, where a new graft artery is put in place to bypass a blocked coronary artery that redirects blood flow to the affected heart. Pacemaker can also be inserted to control an abnormal heart beat. Heart transplants may be required if medications, dietary, and lifestyle changes do not help with the congestive heart disease. It has been proven that moderate aerobic exercise and keeping an ideal weight can significantly improve the overall quality of life with someone who is living with congestive heart failure.