Congestive heart failure is a medical condition wherein the heart is unable to pump sufficient amounts of blood to the other parts of the body. If this condition is not diagnosed and treated on time, the affected individual could develop serious complications. This write-up provides information on this heart condition.
The heart is a muscular organ that pumps oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood to the other parts of the body. It is divided into four chambers. The upper and lower chamber on the right side of the heart are known as the right atrium and right ventricle respectively. The upper and lower chambers on the left are referred to as the left atrium and the left ventricle. Two large veins, the inferior and superior vena cava, empty the oxygen-depleted blood from the body into the right atrium, and the blood flows into the right ventricle.
Blood travels through the pulmonic valve to reach the lungs, where it gets oxygenated. The oxygenated blood is carried by the pulmonary veins to the left atrium and left ventricle. This oxygen-rich blood flows through the aortic valve, into the aorta and to the other parts the body. If the heart is unable to pump blood properly, and the chambers stretch or become stiff, the heart muscle walls might weaken.
As the kidneys receive less blood, they filter less fluid out of the circulation into the urine. This can cause fluid retention in various parts of the body such as the lungs, liver, legs, or around the eyes. This condition is referred to as congestive heart failure. If this condition is not diagnosed and treated at an early stage, the affected individual is at an increased risk of developing certain complications.
Coronary artery disease, which is caused due to the accumulation of cholesterol deposits in the coronary arteries, is one of the most common causes of this heart disease. Plaque buildup leads to the narrowing of these arteries, which in turn affects the flow of blood to the heart. A limited flow of blood can lead to the weakening of the heart muscle.
Hypertension is another condition that could affect the heart’s ability to pump blood. When blood exerts a lot of pressure on the walls of the arteries, the heart muscles thicken in order to tackle the increased pressure. Under these circumstances, the heart needs to work harder to pump blood. Over a period of time, the force of contraction of the heart muscle starts weakening. As a result, the pumping mechanism gets adversely affected. Pulmonary hypertension, that is increased blood pressure on the artery that carries blood from the heart to the lungs, can also affect the pumping mechanism of the heart.
The flow of blood to and from the heart is controlled by certain valves. If these valves are not functioning properly, blood may flow back. One may also be genetically predisposed to cardiomyopathy, a condition characterized by damage to the heart muscle.
Alcohol abuse, viral infections, or autoimmune disorders may make one susceptible to this condition. There are four stages of this heart ailment. As the disease progresses, the heart’s ability to pump blood decreases. This has an adverse effect on one’s ability to perform exercises or physical activities. Fluid retention in the body, shortness of breath, dizziness, palpitations, rapid heartbeat, and severe fatigue are some of the common symptoms. In the last stage, the affected individual might experience shortness of breath even while resting.
One is diagnosed with heart failure when the left, right, or both sides of the heart are unable to perform their function. Left-sided heart failure occurs when the left ventricle cannot pump blood effectively. Under such circumstances, blood may back up into the left atrium and then into the lungs. As the lungs get congested, the blood backs into right ventricle. This causes the pressure to build up on the right side as well. As a result, the pumping mechanism of the right ventricle starts getting affected. As a result, fluid starts accumulating in the abdomen and lower extremities. This causes right-sided heart failure.
The accumulation of fluid puts pressure on the kidneys. In the absence of medical treatment, the kidney function may also deteriorate. In fact, one might be at a great risk of suffering from a kidney failure. Overweight people who are diagnosed with this heart disease, may develop cardiac cachexia. This condition causes rapid and unexplained weight loss. Irregularities in the heart rhythm is one of the most common complications of congestive heart failure. If a person diagnosed with coronary artery disease is diagnosed with heart failure as well, the possibility of him/her having a heart attack or a cardiac arrest are very high.
ACE inhibitors, beta blockers, and diuretics are drugs that are usually prescribed for treating congestive heart failure. Since fluid retention is a common symptom of this medical condition, diuretics are often prescribed. The use of diuretics helps in taking the pressure off from the kidneys and can thus, prevent kidney failure.
Beta blockers are prescribed too prevent accelerated heart rate, shortness of breath or rapid heartbeat during any physical activity.
ACE inhibitors block an enzyme that causes narrowing of blood vessels and also lower blood pressure. Both ACE inhibitors and beta blockers help in lowering blood pressure.
Doctors might also prescribe a drug called digitalis for improving the heart’s pumping mechanism. Constricted arteries may be widened through a coronary bypass surgery. If drug therapy doesn’t seem to provide the desired results, defibrillator implants or a pacemaker might be used. The prognosis of this heart condition depends on the stage at which this condition is diagnosed. Prognosis is better if this condition is diagnosed at an early stage.
A healthy heart is very essential for one to lead a good life. It is therefore essential that we make the right lifestyle choices. Staying physically active, following a healthy diet, quitting smoking, and limiting the intake of alcohol can certainly lower the risk of complications. People with a family history of heart disease must also take precautionary measures. Though drug therapy and self-care measures can help in managing the symptoms of this heart condition to a great extent, the prognosis is poor if one doesn’t make lifestyle-related changes soon.