Heart failure, sometimes known as congestive heart failure, occurs when your heart muscle doesn’t pump blood as well as it should. Certain conditions, such as narrowed arteries in your heart (coronary artery disease) or high blood pressure, gradually leave your heart too weak or stiff to fill and pump efficiently.
Not all conditions that lead to heart failure can be reversed, but treatments can improve the signs and symptoms of heart failure and help you live longer.
One way to prevent heart failure is to prevent and control conditions that cause heart failure, such as coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, diabetes or obesity.
Heart failure can be chronic which means going on from a time, or your condition may be acute i.e. start suddenly.
Signs and symptoms for heart failure are:
- Shortness of breath (dyspnea) when you exert yourself or when you lie down
- Fatigue and weakness
- Swelling (edema) in your legs, ankles and feet
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Reduced ability to exercise
- Persistent cough or wheezing with white or pink blood-tinged phlegm
- Increased need to urinate at night
- Swelling of your abdomen (ascites)
- Very rapid weight gain from fluid retention
- Lack of appetite and nausea
- Difficulty concentrating or decreased alertness
- Sudden, severe shortness of breath and coughing up pink, foamy mucus
- Chest pain if your heart failure is caused by a heart attack
Cause of heart failure
Heart failure often develops after different conditions that have damaged or weakened your heart. However, the heart doesn’t need to be weakened to cause heart failure. It can also occur if the heart becomes too stiff.
In heart failure, the main pumping chambers of your heart (the ventricles) may become stiff and not fill properly between beats. In some cases of heart failure, your heart muscle may become damaged and weakened, and the ventricles stretch (dilate) to the point that the heart can’t pump blood efficiently throughout your body.
To diagnose heart failure, your doctor will take a careful medical history, review your symptoms and perform a physical examination. Your doctor will also check for the presence of risk factors, such as high blood pressure, coronary artery disease or diabetes.
After the physical exam, your doctor may also order some of these tests which are:
- Blood tests
- Chest X-ray
- Electrocardiogram or ECG
- Stress test
- Exercise tolerance test or ETT
- Cardiac CT Scan
- Myocardial biopsy
- Coronary angiogram
Heart failure is a chronic disease needing lifelong management. However, with treatment, signs and symptoms of heart failure can improve, and the heart sometimes becomes stronger. Treatment may help you live longer and reduce your chance of dying suddenly.
for most people, the treatment of heart failure involves a balance of the right medications and, in some cases, use of devices that help the heart beat and contract properly.
Doctors usually treat heart failure with a combination of medications. Depending on your symptoms, you might take one or more medications, including:
- ACE Inhibitors
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers
- Beta blockers
- Aldosterone antagonists
In some cases, doctors recommend surgery to treat the underlying problem that led to heart failure. Some treatments being studied and used in certain people include:
- Coronary bypass surgery
- Heart valve repair or replacement
- Implantable cardio-verter defibrillator (ICDs)
- Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT), or biventricular pacing
- Ventricular assist devices (VADs)
- Heart transplant