What Do We Mean by Congestive Heart Failure?

Many many individuals do not know what congestive heart failure is or what it means for their life, and they ask themselves, "Is congestive heart failure the end of my world?" It's a terrifying moment for most patients: the moment when the general practitioner enters their hospital room and informs them that they are in distress from congestive heart failure.

Congestive heart failure begins when, for whatever reason, the heart can not effectively pump the blood all through the body. This in the main occurs while the heart muscle is weak due to disease or stressed beyond its ability to perform. Congestive heart failure is generally a secondary disease following another cardiac condition, primarily either coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies, myocarditis, valvular disease, or cardiac arrhythmias, with coronary artery disease carrying the poorest prognosis. It could also follow a myocardial infarction, renal failure, sepsis or even severe anemia.

Each side of the heart has a different function, and therefore will have a slightly different effect on the body while it is unable to fulfill that function. If it is the left side of the heart that has failed, accumulation of fluid in and near the lungs will make the patient to experience difficulty breathing, and the kidneys will respond to the reduced blood levels in the circulation by retaining fluid as well. If it is the right side that fails, the excess fluid accumulates in the venous system, confirming on the patient a generalized edema that becomes more and more severe as their condition deteriorates.

Dyspnea is the prevalent presenting symptom in congestive heart disease, while the severity will vary from patient to patient. Some will possess perfectly ordinary pulmonary function until under exertion, such as whilst exercising, walking up stairs or mowing their lawn; others will have so much fluid retention that simply rising from bed in the morning will prove to be difficult.

These patients will also normally get fatigued due to a lack of oxygen to the tissues. Heart failure will also create a condition known as pitting edema, in which the body retains fluid to the point that as stress and strain is applied to a specific spot on the body the indentation remains (non-pitting edema is not caused by heart failure) .

The treatment of congestive heart disease consists primarily of treating the symptoms. Vital signs should be taken regularly, and quite often diuretics will be prescribed to ease expulsion of accumulated fluid from the body. While in the hospital fluid intake and output will be measured carefully. Patients will very likely be placed in an upright position to help in moving fluid from around the heart and lungs, given potassium supplements and prescribed bed rest for a period of time. BUN levels and serum creatinine, potassium, sodium, chloride and bicarbonate levels are monitored by a doctor.

There are numerous elements that contribute to congestive heart failure and, if diagnosed, must be treated and maintained. These include hypertension, anemia or poycythemia, endocrine disorders, malnutrition, drug or alcohol usage and not least obesity. As a result, it is very important that patients suffering from congestive heart failure pay particular attention to maintaining a generally healthy lifestyle. A family doctor can help in establishing the best diet and exercises with each person to reduce placing undue tension on the heart and lungs.

Whilst no cure exists for congestive heart failure and the prognosis varies from case to case, with the use of a strict diet and activity program, taking all prescribed medications regularly and maintaining a close relationship with their doctors abundant patients who suffer from congestive heart failure can continue to lead a fairly natural life.