You are likely to encounter a patient who suffers or has previously suffered from congestive heart failure (CHF) at least once in your life.
Since this condition is very common, it is essential to have a general idea of how it is caused and what could be done to prevent heart conditions from turning into fatal situations. Let us first look at what CHF is and the various types of congestive heart failure. One of the most common types includes systolic heart failure.
CHF – What is it?
Often confused with the cessation of heart activity, congestive heart failure does not always have to be associated with a cardiac arrest. The muscles of the body are in constant need of an adequate supply of oxygen and nutrients. CHF is a condition in which the heart’s activity is reduced and hence, the blood pumped is not enough to meet the body’s overall requirement.
Types of congestive heart failure
Left-sided heart failure
The left atrium of the heart collects oxygenated blood from the lungs and allows it to flow to the left ventricle, which then supplies the blood to the entire body. In left-sided ventricular failure, the left ventricle is weakened and more effort is required to pump blood to the body.
This type of congestive heart failure is further divided into:
The left ventricle becomes less elastic and loses its ability to contract like it normally would, hence, affect the regular transport of blood to the body.
The left ventricle is unable to relax and becomes rigid. This stiffness of the heart muscle walls prevents the organ to fill up with an adequate amount of blood and pump out blood as per the body’s demands.
Right-sided heart failure
The right atrium receives deoxygenated blood from the body, which is then transported to the right ventricle. Here, the blood exits the heart via the pulmonary artery to the lungs. Right-sided heart failure, in many cases, is a result of left-sided heart failure. This happens when the left ventricle fails, increasing the fluid pressure in the lungs. This causes failure of the heart’s right side, weakening of muscle walls, and eventual backflow of blood.
Symptoms of congestive heart failure
Most of the symptoms in adults and children are due to fluid leakage in the capillaries as a result of reduced oxygen supply to tissues. The following are the symptoms in adults with the condition of congestive heart failure.
- Reduced muscle stamina
- Edema (swelling) or fluid retention in legs and ankles
- Poor appetite
Although congestive heart failure has a low diagnostic rate in children, some of the most common symptoms are listed below.
- Low appetite or difficulty eating
- Sleep more than other babies their age
- Difficulty in breathing
- Faster heart rate
- Profuse sweating
- Poor growth rate
- Enlarged liver upon palpation
Causes of congestive heart failure
The cause of congestive heart failure is usually related to damage to the heart muscle. The possibility of pre-existing impairments in the heart or other conditions that directly affect the pumping action of the heart pose as risk factors for CHF. While in adults the symptoms are most commonly a result of hypertension and coronary artery disease, in children, CHF is caused majorly by cardiomyopathy and congenital heart disease. Below is a list of all general causes and potential risk factors of congestive heart failure adults.
Overconsumption of alcohol
Excessive or prolonged alcohol abuse weakens the heart muscles and makes them thin and unable to withstand pressure. This directly affects the heart’s ability to pump blood, disrupting the body’s functions due to insufficient blood supply. This is a common cause of right-sided heart failure.
Overworking the heart
Certain abnormal conditions such as diabetes, valve disease, hypertension or high blood pressure, and sleep apnea tend to put more stress on the heart. This causes weakening of the heart muscles or, in severe cases, might even rupture a heart wall or vessel. An overworked heart, mostly in cases of hypertension, causes systolic heart failure, diastolic heart failure, and right-sided heart failure.
CAD Or Coronary Artery Disease
The heart muscles need an ample supply of blood to function normally. This blood is supplied by the coronary arteries. Any sort of complete or partial obstruction in the coronary arteries would either block them or make them narrow, hence impeding the normal blood flow. This is likely to give rise to congestive heart failure, mainly systolic heart failure.
The compromised activity of heart valves
The weakness of heart muscles and heart valves could be a result of any drug side effects or any virus infections and these could obstruct regular blood flow. This usually results in backflow of blood, and in some cases, causes mixing of oxygenated blood with deoxygenated blood.
These include hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. Since thyroid hormones directly influence the rate of blood flow and the heartbeat, they play an important role in maintaining healthy heart physiology. Malfunction in the thyroid gland leads to overproduction or underproduction of the thyroid hormone, creating problems for pre-existing heart disease or causing congestive heart failure
Abnormal heart rhythms
Referred to as heart arrhythmias in medical terms, the irregular heart rhythms could be either faster or slower than normal. These are of two types, supraventricular arrhythmia, and ventricular arrhythmia, and both could result in systolic heart failure. A rapid heartbeat weakens the heart muscle while a slow-paced rhythm impedes adequate blood flow from the heart to all parts of the body.
Severe obesity not only holds a risk for coronary heart disease but also for congestive heart failure. Obesity gives rise to hypertension and atherosclerosis, which further worsens to contribute to CHF, including right-sided heart failure.
Treatment of CHF
If you are experiencing symptoms of CHF, or have been diagnosed with it, chances are the damage caused will most likely not be reversed. Nevertheless, with research and technology, some treatments have been put together with which it is possible to significantly improve the living standards of a patient with this condition.
Some of these treatments are medications such as anticoagulants, beta-blockers, MRAs, ARBs, ARNIs, ACE inhibitors, Digoxin, Antiplatelet drugs, and Diuretics. These work mainly as blood thinners to reduce the chances of a stroke, inhibitors to control hormone production from the adrenal glands and to slow down the heartbeat, reduce blood pressure, and reduce strain on the heart walls.
Other treatment methods involve surgery. This method is resorted to only when the patient stops responding to the medications. Surgeries could be a coronary artery bypass graft, a heart valve surgery, a heart transplant, or a percutaneous coronary intervention, such as a pacemaker or a cardiac ablation to correct an irregular heartbeat and heart rhythm.
Since CHF is a very common cardiac condition and affects millions of people every year, it is difficult for doctors to fully reverse the damage it causes. However, if you keep an eye out for yourself and those around you who are experiencing any of these symptoms, the treatment for congestive heart failure can be started as soon as possible, leaving no room for any further damage.