Congestive heart failure (CHF)
What is it?
The term "heart failure" is admittedly scary. Heart failure means simply that the heart does not pump as well as it normally should. Heart failure is usually classified into two types:
- Heart failure with reduced left ventricular function (HF-rEF)
The lower left chamber of the heart enlarges, and cannot squeeze hard enough to pump the right amount of oxygenated blood to the body.
- Heart failure with preserved left ventricular function(HF-pEF)
The heart squeezes and pumps normally; however, the bottom chamber is thicker and/or stiffer than a normal heart. This causes the heart to not be able to relax properly and the heart cannot fill up completely. Because of the heart’s stiffness, there is less blood passing through, and less blood pump out to the body.
Heart failure is a chronic, long-term condition that cannot be cured. But it can be managed — through a doctor-prescribed combination of lifestyle changes, heart medications and surgical treatment.
- Persistent dry cough.
- Shortness of breath.
- Swelling in your ankles, feet, legs, abdomen, or sudden weight gain.
- Lack of appetite, nausea.
- Dizziness, confusion, impaired thinking.
- Racing pulse or heart palpitations.
- Some people have none or very mild symptoms of heart failure, and they may come and go. It is important to let your doctor know of any new or worsening symptoms.
Causes of heart failure
- Coronary artery disease
- Heart attack
- Congenital heart disease
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Certain medications such as chemotherapy drugs can lead to heart failure
- Complete medical history and physical examination
- Blood tests
- Electrocardiogram (EKG)
- Cardiac stress test
- Imaging studies such as chest x-ray or CT scan
- Cardiac catheterization
- Lower your risk by not smoking, eating a healthy diet, and being active
- Limit sodium intake
- Limit fluids
- Medications: Some prescription options are ACE inhibitors, beta blockers, and an aldosterone antagonist