What is Congestive Heart Failure?
The heart is made of specialized muscle and acts as a powerful pump that sends blood flowing throughout the body. Our blood contains the oxygen and nutrients that the body needs in order to function. When the heart muscle is not pumping blood as strongly as it should, the body does not receive enough oxygen and nutrients to function properly. This poor pumping action by the heart is known as congestive heart failure.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms can help doctors find out which side of your heart is not working properly.
If the left side of your heart is not working properly (left-sided heart failure), blood and fluid back up into your lungs. You will feel short of breath, be very tired, and have a cough (especially at night). In some cases, patients may begin to cough up pinkish, blood-tinged sputum.
If the right side of your heart is not working properly (right-sided heart failure), the slowed blood flow causes a buildup of fluid in your veins. Your feet, legs, and ankles will begin to swell. This swelling is called edema. Sometimes edema spreads to the lungs, liver, and stomach.
Symptoms of Left-Side Heart Failure
Central sleep apnea. This disorder results when the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe during sleep. It occurs in up to half of people with heart failure. Sleep apnea causes disordered breathing at night. If heart failure progresses, the apnea may be so acute that a person, unable to breathe, may awaken from sleep in panic.
Loss of muscle mass. Over time, patients may lose muscle weight due to low cardiac output.
The symptoms of congestive heart failure vary among individuals according to the particular organ systems involved and depending on the degree to which the rest of the body has “compensated” for the heart muscle weakness. An early symptom of congestive heart failure is fatigue. While fatigue is a sensitive indicator of possible underlying congestive heart failure, it is obviously a nonspecific symptom that may be caused by many other conditions. The person’s ability to exercise may also diminish. Patients may not even sense this decrease and they may subconsciously reduce their activities to accommodate this limitation.
Fatigue and shortness of breath (dyspnea) are the first symptoms. They are caused by fluid in the lungs. Patients typically report that they feel out of breath after mild exertion. It is unlike the breathlessness of angina, which feels like a heavy weight pressing on the chest.
Symptoms that may signify heart failure are:
Shortness of breath from walking stairs or simple activities (dyspnea
Trouble breathing when resting or lying down
Waking up breathless at night (paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea)
Symptoms of Right-Side Heart Failure
Right-side failure results in a reduced blood flow causing a build up of pressure and fluid in the veins. The external symptoms of this build up include swelling in the…
What are the risk factors for Congestive Heart Failure?
Major risk factors include:
History of heart attack
Coronary artery disease
High blood pressure
Congenital heart defects