Congestive Heart Failure: What is It?

When it comes to congestive heart failure, we get a lot of questions from our patients regarding symptoms and treatments options. In fact, we have a new Transitional Heart Failure Clinic opening specifically to help treat those patients. But, what is congestive heart failure and how can it be treated?

What is Congestive Heart Failure?

First, heart failure affects nearly 6 million Americans and about 670,000 people are diagnosed each day. Congestive heart failure, itself, is the result of heart failure. But, heart failure does not mean that your heart stops working. Instead, it means your

heart’s pumping power has diminished and is weaker than normal. As a result, your blood flows at a slower rate and pressure increases. When this occurs, your body does not receive enough oxygen and nutrients. Your heart responds by either stretching (to hold more blood to pump through the body) or by hardening and stiffening.

When this occurs, your heart will eventually weaken and will be unable to pump efficiently. Your kidneys may compensate, creating fluid retention. As fluid builds in your arms, legs, ankles and lungs, your body becomes congested. Congestive heart failure is a term used to describe heart failure that is resulting in this congestion from fluid build-up.

Congestive Heart Failure Symptoms

Symptoms of heart failure can be mild to severe and they can come and go. But most common symptoms of congestive heart failure are:

  • Congested lungs – This is due to fluid buildup and can create shortness of breath during exercise or while lying flat. You may also have a dry, hacking cough or wheezing.
  • Fluid retention – When there is less blood getting to your kidneys, it causes water retention resulting in swollen ankles, legs, abdomen, and weight gain.
  • Dizziness and fatigue – With less blood flow to organs and muscles, you will get tired more easily. When the blood flow is constricted to the brain, you may feel dizziness and confusion.
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat – The heart tries to compensate getting blood to the body by beating faster and can become more irregular.

If you have heart failure, you may have one or more of these symptoms, or you may not have any of them. They may or may not indicate a weakened heart, but if you seem to experience these on a consistent basis, you should speak to your doctor.

Congestive Heart Failure Treatment

Usually heart failure follows a series of stages and progression. But, the most common treatment is tight control over medication and your lifestyle. If your heart failure progresses, then more advanced treatments may be required. The primary treatment goals are to decrease heart failure progression and lessen symptoms. This includes:

  • Keeping your blood pressure low and controlled
  • Maintaining fluid balance by limiting fluid intake to less than 2 liters per day
  • Limiting sodium with a low-salt diet to reduce fluid retention. Doing this will reduce swelling and make it easier to breathe.
  • Regular doctor visits to ensure you are not progressing and, if necessary, prescribe treatment variations.

How to Use this Information

Congestive heart failure is something you can treat and limit its progression. But, you do need to stay with your treatment. That is why we are excited to open our clinic, specially designed to treat those with heart failure and improve their quality of life. If you have questions about our new clinic, please call 303-744-1065.