Capital Health Care NetworkUnderstanding Congestive Heart Failure
Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) affects nearly 6 million Americans and is the leading cause of hospitalization in people 65 and older.
What Is Heart Failure?
Heart failure does not mean that your heart has stopped or is about to stop working. It means that your heart can’t pump enough blood (oxygen and nutrients) to meet your body’s needs. The chambers of the heart may respond by stretching to hold more blood or by becoming stiff and thickened, but eventually the heart muscle walls weaken. As a result, the kidneys respond by causing the body to retain fluid (water) and salt. When fluid builds up in the arms, legs, ankles, feet, lungs, or other organs, the body becomes congested, and congestive heart failure (CHF) is the term used to describe the condition.
Signs and symptoms of heart failure are:
• Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
• Fatigue (tiredness)
• Swelling in the ankles, feet, legs, abdomen, and veins in the neck
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, when symptoms start, you may feel tired and short of breath after routine physical effort, like climbing stairs. As your heart grows weaker, symptoms get worse. You may begin to feel tired and short of breath after getting dressed or walking across the room. Some people have shortness of breath while lying flat. Fluid buildup from heart failure also causes weight gain, frequent urination, and a cough that’s worse at night and when you’re lying down. This cough may be a sign of acute pulmonary edema, a condition in which too much fluid builds up in your lungs which requires emergency treatment.
Common causes of CHF include:
• Coronary Artery Disease
• High Blood Pressure
• Thyroid Disease
• Heart Valve Disease
• Kidney Disease
• Congenital Heart Defects
Fortunately, heart failure can be treated. Seeing your doctor regularly, taking your medication as prescribed and following a heart healthy diet and exercise program can help you successfully manage heart failure.