Congestive Heart Failure: Signs, Symptoms and Treatment

By Alley Benton
Updated February 1, 2017
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Congestive Heart Failure: Signs, Symptoms and TreatmentCongestive heart failure is a very serious condition whereby the heart is no longer able to pump sufficient blood at the right pressure through the body. Usually, it happens when there is a weakening of the heart muscle, or if it becomes too stiff. Having this condition does not necessarily mean that the heart is about to stop working. Rather, it means the heart needs some additional support, which is usually offered through medication.

The main symptoms of heart failure include ankle swelling, feeling very tired, and breathlessness. However, many other conditions, some more serious than others, can also cause this. Usually, the symptoms of congestive heart failure are acute, although some people have chronic failure.

The Types of Heart Failure:

There are three types of heart failure:

1.) LVSD (left ventricular systolic dysfunction), whereby the left ventricle is weakened

2.) HFPEF (heart failure with preserved ejection fraction), whereby there is stiffness in the left ventricle, making it hard for it to fill with blood

3.) Valve disease

Several tools exist to diagnose heart failure, including the echocardiogram, the electrocardiogram (ECG), and the blood test. This helps physicians to see how well the heart is working.

Causes of Heart Failure:

Usually, there isn't a single clear cause of congestive heart failure, Rather, there are several problems all affecting the heart, leading to failure. Some health conditions are known to increase your risk, including:

  • Hypertension, straining the heart and eventually leading to failure
  • CHD (coronary heart disease), where atherosclerosis causes heart attacks or angina due to clogging of the arteries
  • Cardiomyopathy, which is often either genetic or due to a viral infection, although it can also be caused by cancer medication or alcohol misuse
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Disease, damage, or other issues with the valves

In very rare cases, heart failure is caused by pulmonary hypertension, hyperthyroidism, or anemia.

Heart Failure Treatment:

Usually, once you are diagnosed with a heart problem, you will have it for life and there is no cure. Rather, you will learn to manage it through medication, lifestyle changes, surgery, and/or devices. If a specific cause can be identified, it is possible that curative treatment is available, but this is rare. Usually, you will have to receive treatment for the rest of your life. The following recommended treatment will:

  • Strengthen your heart
  • Lessen your symptoms
  • Lower the risk of flare ups
  • Allow you to live a fuller, longer life

The most important thing is for people to learn about preventing heart failure in the first place. This is possible through lifestyle changes and/or medication. Some of the things you can do include:

  • Stop smoking
  • Ensure your blood pressure is healthy
  • Ensure your cholesterol levels are healthy
  • Make sure you have a healthy weight, which means not too thin or too fat
  • Make healthy eating choices
  • Partake in regular exercise
  • Don't drink too much alcohol

While anyone can develop heart failure, it is particularly common in those who have a family history of it. Hence, if you have a direct relative who had heart failure, it is even more important that you make the necessary lifestyle changes.

* Disclaimer:
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health-care professional.