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Stages of Congestive Heart Failure

Stages of Congestive Heart Failure
Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a disease in which the heart becomes incapable of performing its work effectively. To know about the stages of CHF, read on...
Nicks J
Did You Know?
The amount of energy generated by your heart daily is equivalent to driving a truck for a distance of 20 miles.
The main function of the heart is to supply oxygenated blood to different parts of the body. It pumps oxygen-rich blood into the circulatory system through the arteries. Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a medical condition wherein the heart's pumping action weakens considerably. As a result of this weakened action, the tissues of the body do not receive adequate blood and oxygen.
CHF does not mean that the heart completely stops working. In this condition, the heart loses its ability to pump sufficient amounts of blood needed by the body to perform its various tasks. As a result, the blood also does not circulate properly which often leads to accumulation of blood (swelling) in some parts of the body. People diagnosed with congestive heart disease often have swollen legs and hands. The ability of the kidney to dispose water and sodium is also hampered. If fluid collects in the lungs, then shortness of breath is also experienced.
In the early stages of CHF, the heart responds by enlarging itself to meet the needs of the body. It starts pumping faster to increase the output of blood. As the pumping activity becomes stronger, more blood is circulated through the entire body. This helps the body in performing its functions properly. However, over a period of time, the heart muscle weakens and the functioning of the heart slows down. Eventually, people suffering from this condition experience health problems such as restlessness and chest pain.
Stages of CHF
CHF is a progressive disease that worsens over a period of time. As the condition aggravates, it affects other organs of the body including lungs and kidneys. The stages of CHF are as follows:
  1. CHF develops slowly which is why the body does not show symptoms in the early stages of this condition. Mild weakness may be experienced, but this weakness does not affect the daily routine of an individual. In other words, the day-to-day routine and even light to moderate exercise is not bothersome for patients in the initial stages of CHF
  2. Individuals experience more than usual tiredness during and after performing their daily exercise routine. Daily routine tasks may become slightly troublesome and any higher level of physical activity might not be tolerated.
  3. This stage is typically marked by excessive fatigue and heart palpitations from everyday tasks. Hence, the patient has to put considerable amount of restrictions on his physical activity level. As the disease increases in severity, patients find it hard to perform routine exercises. This is because any form of exercise requires adequate supply of oxygen to the body, which in this disease, the heart is unable to provide. Taking rest from time to time seems to be the only alternative to ease fatigue. In this stage, exercise typically takes a backseat as it causes difficulty breathing. Abnormal heartbeats may be experienced even during mild physical exertion.
  4. In this stage, the heart's ability to work correctly is substantially damaged and hence taking rest is unlikely to provide much relief from CHF symptoms. This being the last stage, the patient's everyday tasks are severely hampered. In such a scenario any kind of physical activity is a source of great discomfort. Even simple activities like sweeping and walking become extremely tedious to carry out. Help is required even with basic daily chores like washing utensils and cooking food. In this stage, symptoms such as shortness of breath, swollen feet and hands, and persistent cough are noticed.
  • Diseases that disrupt the normal functioning of the heart. Coronary artery disease and malfunctioning of the heart valve are considered to be the main cause of CHF.
  • Disorders that damage the heart muscle.
  • High blood pressure
  • Alcoholism
  • Other diseases such as diabetes and anemia also contribute to congestive heart failure.
There are medicines that help to improve the condition of the heart. Doctors prescribe the following medicine to treat CHF:
  • Diuretics (water pills): Diuretics help get rid of unwanted fluid from the body. Intake of water pills result in frequent urination, thus preventing fluid from collecting in the body. Diuretics such as furosemide and bumetanide are given to CHF patients.
  • Digoxin: Also called digitalis, this medicine provides strength to the heart muscle, improving the heart's ability to pump effectively.
  • Beta Blockers: These drugs are used to bring blood pressure to normal. Beta blockers also help to restore the patient's ability to exercise. The patient shows considerable improvement in his overall movement.
An easy way to prevent CHF is to follow a healthy lifestyle that decreases the risk of developing heart problems. A proper healthy diet accompanied by an exercise program will allow the heart to work more efficiently and thus prevent congestive heart failure. Loneliness to the heart can be as stressful as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. So be social, and always be in the company of well-wishers.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.