Congestive heart failure
Chest pain is one of the common symptoms of heart disease. However, if you suffer from oedema, swelling of the ankles and feet in addition to excessive fatigue and irregular heartbeat, you might suffer from congestive heart failure.
Commonly called heart failure, congestive heart failure occurs when the heart becomes inefficient to pump adequate amount of blood throughout the body. As a result, the heart has to work harder to pump blood and thus, fails to meet the nutritional demands of all the organs of the body. This in turn causes weakening of the heart muscle and impairment of body functions. Finally, it causes heart failure. It also stimulates the kidneys to hold more water causing swelling in the arms, feet and the face.
The warning signs and symptoms that you might experience include –
- Extreme fatigue (Read: Top 10 causes of constant fatigue)
- Swelling in your ankles and feet (Here’s everything you ought to know if you suffer from swollen feet)
- Loss of appetite
Whereas, some of the symptoms that your condition has worsened and thus, need immediate medical attention are –
- Irregular heartbeat
- Urge to urinate frequently (Also read about 6 common reasons you could be urinating more frequently than normal)
- Coughing due to congestion in the lungs
- Chest pain that radiates to the arm
Here is a detailed explanation on the 8 common heart disease symptoms and warning signs.
The heart has four chambers – two ventricles in the lower half and two atria in the upper half. The ventricles pump blood from the heart to various parts of the body, whereas the atria receive blood from various parts of the body.
When the ventricles cannot pump blood, there is a decreased flow of the blood into the heart. This exerts pressure on the heart muscles and also increases the load on the lungs. It in turn causes congestion due to backup of blood and other fluids, leading to heart failure.
Read about 10 common types of heart disease you should know about.
Dr Nilesh Gautam, Senior Interventional Cardiologist, Head of Department of Preventive Cardiology and Rehabilitation at the Asian Heart Institute says that the factors that increase your risk of congestive heart failure include -
Coronary artery disease (CAD) – Caused due to deposition of cholesterol and other fatty substances in the artery, CAD is one of the major risk factors of CHF.
Heart attack – In this, there is a complete blockage of the artery that supplies blood to the heart leading to cardiac arrest. Here are 8 simple tips to prevent a second heart attack.
Cigarette smoking – The harmful chemicals and gases present in the cigarette smoke, when inhaled, gets deposited on the arterial wall. This in turn puts you at a high risk of experiencing cardiovascular diseases and thus, CHF. Here are 25 things that happen inside your body when you smoke.
High blood pressure – You suffer from high blood pressure when there is an increased pressure exerted by blood on the blood vessels. Although it can be caused due to many factors, high blood pressure can weaken your heart muscle and thus, increase your risk of CHF.
Diabetes – If you are diabetes, you are at an increased risk of congestive heart failure as high blood sugar increases your blood pressure and also cholesterol levels in the body. Here are 6 reasons why diabetics are prone to heart disease.
Cardiomyopathy – Collectively known as diseases affecting the heart muscle, cardiomyopathy increases your chance of suffering from CHF.
Heart valve disease – When you suffer from a heart valve disease, the functioning of the heart valves is affected. This exerts pressure on the ventricles to pump blood harder.
Obesity – It goes without saying that people who are obese (and even overweight) have a high chance of suffering from CHF. This is because they have high blood cholesterol levels and other fatty acids that lead to deposition on the arterial wall leading to heart problems. Read in detail about 5 diseases you can prevent with weight loss.
Viral myocarditis – Viral infection of the myocardium (inner lining of the heart muscle), which in turn increases your chance of suffering from heart failure.
Peripartum cardiomyopathy – A rare disorder seen in some cases during pregnancy, it weakens the heart muscle and in turn makes you susceptible to congestive heart failure.
Read to know which of these 6 risk factors of heart disease you have
Congestive heart failure can be diagnosed with the help of --
Echocardiography – It is used to determine whether your heart is pumping at its normal pace or has decreased. It also determines if heart failure is caused due to any underlying disease like heart attack or valve disease. And depending upon the results, your doctor will decide the type of treatment measures. Do you know about these 8 tests that can tell if you have heart disease?
Angiography – This test helps in determining the blockage of the arteries if present and thus, plans your treatment accordingly. Here’s what to expect during an angiography.
Chest X-rays – It may show cardiomegaly (enlargement of the heart), which in turn might be causing CHF.
ECG – This is used to identify arrhythmias, ventricular hypertrophy or ischemic heart disease and thus, decide the treatment accordingly.
According to Dr Gautam, ‘The type of treatment is dependent on the severity of the condition and the symptoms that you experience. Also, if CHF is caused due to any underlying disease, your doctor might plan treatment accordingly. However, the common treatment options include medications, surgery (in severe cases) and use of pacemaker.’
The common medications that are used to treat congestive heart failure are –
Diuretics: These drugs help in expelling excess salt and water from the body and thus, reduce swelling of the feet and abdomen. It also lowers the load on the heart.
Beta-blockers: These medications lower the heart rate, which in turn decreases the load on the heart muscle.
ACE inhibitors: They are given to reduce the load on the kidneys and thus help in maintaining electrolyte balance in the body aiding in normal functioning of the kidney. This in turn decreases the pressure exerted on the heart muscles. Here is detailed information on medicines for heart disease — use, side-effects, interactions and precautions.
Medications are always the first choice of treatment of CHF. However, if heart failure is caused due to blockage of the arteries, angioplasty might be the right option. Also, in case of heart valve disease, surgery might be recommended to repair them and thus, improve your heart functioning. Read about angioplasty – indications, procedure and risks.
In case there are no blockages in the heart (detected from angiography); your doctor might recommend lifestyle medications to improve the functioning of your heart muscle. Apart from this, use of pacemaker to enhance heart rate might also help you to lead a healthy life with CHF.
Apart from this, you should lead an active lifestyle to enhance the process of recovery. This include –
- Eating a healthy diet (Here are 6 heart-healthy diet tips for people with heart disease)
- Exercising regularly
- Getting regular health check-ups
- Lose weight if you are overweight or obese (Read: The simple weight loss guide)
- Perform yoga to prevent and lead a healthy life with a heart disease.
The content has been verified by Dr Nilesh Gautam, Senior Interventional Cardiologist, Head of Department of Preventive Cardiology and Rehabilitation at the Asian Heart Institute, Mumbai.