Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)
IntroductionCongestive heart failure (CHF) develops when the heart cannot pump enough blood for the body. The most common causes of CHF are high blood pressure and coronary artery disease. CHF is usually a progressive long-term condition. Many forms of CHF can be controlled with lifestyle changes, medications, and treatment of underlying medical conditions. Select people with severe CHF may require implanted devices, such as a pacemaker, or a heart transplant.
Your heart contains four chambers. The chambers are separated by the septum, a thick muscle wall. There are two chambers on each side of your heart. The top chambers, the atria, receive blood. The bottom chambers, the ventricles, send blood.
The most common causes of CHF are high blood pressure and coronary artery disease. CHF can be caused by lung disease, heart tumors, arrhythmia, and structural abnormalities associated with heart valve disease, congenital heart disease, and dilated cardiomyopathy.
Some people with CHF may not have symptoms. They may experience symptoms if they develop infections with a high fever, anemia, arrhythmias, hyperthyroidism, and kidney disease. Infants may sweat while feeding or during other exertion.
A series of tests may be ordered to evaluate your heart. Common tests include electrocardiogram (ECG), echocardiogram, coronary angiography, and nuclear ventriculography (MUGA or RNV). An ECG records the heart’s electrical activity. An ECG may be repeated over several hours. An echocardiogram uses sound waves to produce an image of the heart on a monitor. Coronary angiography involves inserting a long narrow tube through a blood vessel and injecting dye into the heart to see how the heart and coronary arteries are working. A nuclear ventriculography involves using a safe radioisotope injection to produce an image of the heart with special scanners. The heart structures may also be viewed with computed tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.
You should make lifestyle changes to keep your heart healthy. This may include maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, avoiding excessive amounts of alcohol, eating healthy foods, and regular aerobic exercise. Your doctor may advise you to restrict your salt and fluid intake. There are several types of medications prescribed for CHF. Follow up care is necessary to monitor your condition and treatments to avoid associated medical complications.
People that experience sudden CHF may require hospitalization. Some people may require several medications and special procedures. Fluid may need to be removed from the sac that surrounds the heart. Excess body fluid may be removed with dialysis. Implanted pumps, pacemakers, and defibrillators may be necessary to help the heart function. Select people may be candidates for a heart transplant surgery.
If you have been diagnosed with CHF, follow your doctor’s instructions carefully. Make and keep all of your appointments. Participate in your cardiac rehabilitation program. Be sure to take all of your medications as directed.
Am I at Risk
Risk factors may increase your likelihood of CHF, although some people that experience the condition do not have any risk factors.
Risk factors for CHF:
_____ High blood pressure
_____ Being overweight
_____ High cholesterol
_____ An immediate family member has CHF.
_____ Illegal drug use
_____ Alcohol abuse
_____ Heart disease/heart attack
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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.
The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on April 13th, 2016. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit www.iHealthSpot.com.