Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive heart failure is a condition where the heart does not pump blood as well as it should. It can occur when the heart muscle is too weak, or when another defect prevents it from circulating blood properly. Symptoms of congestive heart failure can vary in severity, but tend to get worse over time.

Causes

CHF is more likely to occur in people who have other conditions that weaken the heart. The risk is also increased by several lifestyle factors that are bad for the heart including:

  • Congenital heart defects, appearing early in children and infants
  • High blood pressure or cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Asthma
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and coronary heart disease
  • Other cardiovascular conditions
  • Heart infection
  • Reduced kidney function
  • A history of heart attacks
  • Irregular heart rhythms
  • Abuse of alcohol or drugs
  • Smoking
  • Older age

Symptoms

Common symptoms for CHF include:

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • A persistent, unexplained cough
  • Swelling in the legs, ankles, abdomen, or hands
  • Feeling tired

Testing

An HVC cardiologist will perform a physical exam that may involve listening to the heart for abnormal heart rhythms. They may also order other diagnostic tests, including:

  • Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG)
  • Echocardiogram
  • Stress test
  • Blood tests
  • MRI
  • Cardiac catheterization

Treatment

Different medications can help symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure. In people with advanced Congestive Heart Failure, medical procedures are an option, as medication and lifestyle changes may not be enough. Sometimes a procedure is necessary to treat congestive heart failure. If a heart artery is blocked then placing a coronary stent or performing coronary artery bypass grafting surgery can improve heart function. If a heart valve is diseased (either not opening of leaking) the replacement or repair of the heart valves may be necessary.

For those who have severe heart problems and the above treatments are not working, an implanted left ventricular assist device might be used as a temporary remedy before a heart transplant. The last resort for doctors is doing a heart transplant.