Congestive Heart Failure
Congestive heart failure affects nearly 6 million Americans. Roughly 670,000 people are diagnosed with chronic heart failure each year. It is the leading cause of hospitalization (and death) in people older than the age of sixty-five. While the term “heart failure” can be very scary. It does not indicate that the heart has actually failed or stopped working altogether. Congestive heart failure means the heart does not pump as well as it should in order to meet the body’s demands such as the tissues of the body not receiving adequate amounts of blood and oxygen. This may happen when the heart muscle is weaker than normal or when there is a defect in the heart that prevents blood from getting out into the circulation. When the heart does not circulate normally, the kidneys receive less blood and filter less fluid out of the circulation into the urine. The extra fluid in the circulation will then build up in the lungs, the liver, around the eyes and sometimes in the legs. This fluid is called “congestion”, hence the name of the disorder.
There are two different types of heart failure. They are:
Systolic heart failure – occurs when the heart muscle does not contract with enough force, which leads to less oxygenated blood being pumped throughout the body
Diastolic heart failure – occurs when the ventricles do not relax properly or are stiff which leads to less blood entering the heart during normal filling
The symptoms are heart failure include:
- Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
- Congested Lungs
- Swelling in legs, ankles, and feet (edema)
- Dizziness, fatigue or weakness
- Rapid/Irregular heartbeat
- Decreased alertness/ability to concentrate
- Persistent cough/wheezing
- Lack of appetite/nausea
- Reduced ability to exercise
- Weight gain due to fluid retention
- Swelling of the abdomen (ascites)
It is important to note, that someone who has this disease may not have any symptoms of heart failure, or their symptoms may be very mild to severe. Symptoms can be constant or they can come and go.
Heart failure is caused by many conditions that damage the heart muscle. These conditions include:
High Blood pressure – the heart has to work harder than normal if your blood pressure is high
Coronary artery disease – when arteries are narrow, it can limit your heart’s supply of oxygen-rich blood (which results in a weaker heart muscle)
Heart attack – when a heart attack damages the heart muscle, it may not be able to pump as well
Irregular heartbeats – abnormal rhythms create extra work for the heart (resulting in a weakening of the heart muscle)
Diabetes – increases your risk of high blood pressure and coronary artery disease
Sleep apnea – inability to breathe properly at night, resulting in lower blood oxygen levels and increased risk of irregular heartbeat
Congenital heart defects – some individuals with congestive heart failure were born with heart defects
Viruses – a viral infection can cause damage to the heart muscle
Family history of heart failure
Excessive alcohol consumption
More than half of those who develop chronic heart failure die within 5 years of diagnosis. Chronic heart failure contributes to approximately 287,000 deaths a year. However, deaths from chronic heart failure have decreased on average by 12% per decade for women and men over the past fifty years. In the early stages, lifestyle measures and medications are usually all that are needed to keep symptoms under control. But as the disease becomes more severe, you may need more advanced treatments, such as an implantable device to improve heart function.
If you or a loved one is suffering from this disease, a Feinberg Consulting Case Manager can help. Contact us at 877.538.5425 and ask how we may be able to help with your unique situation. See also our blog posting on COPD.