Congestive Heart Failure
Congestive heart failure is a cardiovascular problem in which the heart can no longer pump blood throughout the body with its normal efficiency. This efficiency problem means that the heart does not fill with blood and cannot contract as effectively as before. Unlike how the name sounds, the heart has not failed; it is starting to fall. Because the heart cannot pump blood out in sufficient volume, blood begins to back up in the heart. The result is often that the heart beats faster, enlarges, and as a result, becomes even less efficient, leading to a downward cycle until treatment is initiated.
The reduced oxygenation leads to several issues throughout the body, most commonly in the kidneys and lungs.
It is estimated that upwards of 5,000,000 Americans suffer from congestive heart failure, which is a leading cause of hospitalization in seniors.
Causes of Congestive Heart Failure
The causes of heart failure are many and varied. For the most part, these risk factors can be avoided through preventative care and improvements in lifestyle, including:
- Stopping smoking
- Eating healthier
- Exercising more
- Losing weight
- Treating other cardiovascular issues including high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and atrial fibrillation or afib
When you first visit your cardiologist with the symptoms of congestive heart failure, which can include heart palpitations, tiredness, shortness of breath, and the signs of kidney failure, we will perform a comprehensive series of tests. These may include an EKG, echocardiograms, and stress tests. Various external and implanted heart monitors may also be helpful in the diagnosis.
Treating Congestive Heart Failure
There is no cure for congestive heart failure, and enlargement of the heart cannot be reversed. However, we strive to reduce stress on the heart. This includes lifestyle changes in improved diet and exercise, leading to weight loss. Medications such as diuretics and vasodilators, ace inhibitors and anticoagulants, and several others can be used individually or in combination to lessen the strain on the heart. Surgical options are available for patients who are further along in heart failure or who have significant symptoms that have not been resolved with more conservative treatment. These may include bypass surgery known as CABG or valve replacement, including TAVR. Some patients may benefit from a biventricular pacemaker or an ICD to properly pace the heart or deliver a life-saving, heart-restarting shock if necessary. Heart transplants are a final option if all other potential treatments have failed.
Of course, the best way to manage congestive heart failure is to identify and treat it early on. As such, if you have any unusual feelings or pain in the chest, we encourage you to visit a cardiologist such as ours at Nevada Cardiology as soon as possible. If you ever believe you are experiencing an emergency health issue, dial 9-1-1 immediately.