Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive heart failure is a condition of the heart that affects roughly 6 million Americans and each year another 670,000 people on average are diagnosed with congestive heart failure. It is also the leading cause of hospital stays for people over 65. Congestive heart failure, simply put, is when the heart is not pumping as it should. As opposed to the heart not working entirely (which is a heart attack), congestive heart failure means your heart’s pumping has weaker power than normal. The blood pumping through your heart is going at a slower pace which increases the pressure in your heart. When this happens, your heart is unable to pump as much oxygen and send nutrients throughout your body. This can cause excess fluid to build up in other body parts including your lungs, feet, legs, ankles, arms, and organs.


A variety of conditions help lead to damage of the heart damage which is the main way someone would get congestive heart failure. This includes having a coronary artery disease which decreases the blood flow to the heart, a heart attack which stops the flow of blood to the heart muscle, or a cardiomyopathy which is damage to the heart muscle from blood flow or artery problems. Other conditions might affect the heart including thyroid disease, heart defects, kidney disease, diabetes, valve disease, or high blood pressure.


Congestive heart failure may show no symptoms at first, or they can range from mild to severe. Some of the common symptoms include having congested lungs which a buildup of fluid in your lungs that cause shortness of breath along with a dry, hacking cough, water retention in your abdomen, legs, or ankles, fatigue, weakness and dizziness, and an irregular or rapid heartbeat.

Types of Congestive Heart Failure

There are two main types of heart failure; systolic dysfunction and diastolic dysfunction. With systolic dysfunction the heart muscle isn’t contracting with enough force causing less blood to be pumped through the body. Diastolic dysfunction is caused when the ventricles of the heart aren’t relaxing properly which causes less blood to enter the heart.

Diagnosing Congestive Heart Failure

A physical examination is usually the first step to diagnosing congestive heart failure, followed by a series of question in regards to your signs and symptoms. Your doctor will look for signs of heart failure such as a weakened or rapid heartbeat. Additional tests may be ordered such as blood tests, a chest x-ray, echocardiogram, ejection fraction test, B-type natriuretic peptide blood test, cardiac catheterization, and a stress test.

Treating Congestive Heart Failure

Monitoring is the first course of treatment for congestive heart failure. The condition may progress in which you will be given various types of treatments to lessen your symptoms. This includes changing your diet, getting regular exercise, quitting smoking and drinking, and changing your lifestyle.

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