Congestive heart failure is the name given to heart failure, where the heart muscle does not pump the required amount of blood. The problem arises when there are a number of complications like narrowed arteries in your heart (coronary artery disease) or high blood pressure. This ends up making your heart inefficient in pumping blood and makes the heart weak and stiff too.
A lot of conditions which are the cause of heart failure cannot be treated permanently. Though a few of the symptoms can be reduced and it, in turn, would increase your life expectancy. Improving the quality of life also depends upon the lifestyle changes which shall be exercising, reducing sodium in your diet, managing stress and losing weight.
Symptoms of congestive heart failure
The cause of heart failure and the complication vary a lot and based on which the heart condition differs. It can be ongoing(chronic) or occur suddenly(acute). The most common Congestive heart failure symptoms include:-
- Shortness of breath (dyspnea) when you exert yourself or when you lie down
- Fatigue and weakness
- Swelling (oedema) in your legs, ankles, and feet
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Reduced ability to exercise
- Persistent cough or wheezing with white or pink blood-tinged phlegm
- Increased need to urinate at night
- Swelling of your abdomen (ascites)
- Very rapid weight gain from fluid retention
- Lack of appetite and nausea
- Difficulty concentrating or decreased alertness
- Sudden, severe shortness of breath and coughing up pink, foamy mucus
- Chest pain if your heart failure is caused by a heart attack
Time to see a doctor
You might be looking for the time when you should be consulting a doctor. The doctor time to see a doctor is just which experience any of the above symptoms. There are some sudden cases when the situation would actually be of emergency and they include: –
- Chest pain
- Fainting or severe weakness
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat associated with shortness of breath, chest pain or fainting
- Sudden, severe shortness of breath and coughing up pink, foamy mucus
These symptoms are generally associated with heart conditions, but they do not necessarily be true to only heart conditions. There can be another type of conditions too such as life-threatening heart and lung condition. You cannot do anything about it by yourself and you need to call the helpline number immediately. The concerned doctor’s operation on you in the emergency room will tell you the necessary cause of the symptom and with thorough examination inform you of the condition.
On the contrary, if you already have had a diagnosis of your heart and all of sudden any of the symptom worsens, it is bad news as the treatment you are going through is not working and your heart condition is increasing. Also, if you notice a sudden increase in your body’s weight, get in contact with your doctor as soon as possible.
Congestive heart failure life expectancy
To state in simple words, there can be no definite percentage or rate of Congestive heart failure life expectancy. Though the stats and reports claim that almost as half of the people who are affected by heart failure, happen to live beyond the duration of 5 years, the fact stays that, there is a great variance in life expectancy as per the stage of the congestive heart failure. Life expectancy does not solely depend upon the complications or the extent of the damage caused, the chosen lifestyle often happens to contribute to the same. The medical history of the person may also give rise to a number of complications.
It is important to know that Congestive heart failure has no cure as for now, as there is no medical advancement in this particular field. But, earlier detection and effective treatment can actually help with the affected person’s life expectancy and adds on a few more time of survival. But, there has to be a treatment plan followed by changes and improvement in the lifestyle of the person, which would actually lead on to improve the quality of that particular individual’s life.
Heart failure is as a result of other factors damaging the productivity level of your heart. But, weakness is not always the result of heart failure; it is sometimes when the heart becomes too stiff to function normally and leads to heart failure.
If a person experiences heart failure, his blood pumping chambers, known as the ventricles, become too much stiff, blocking the beats. Some other causes may include when the heart muscle actually gets damaged or weakens and cause the stretch in the ventricles up to a point where normal pumping of blood is no longer facilitated.
With an increase in time, the heart cannot keep up with the necessities of the body to pump the required amount of blood and send it throughout the body. An ejection fraction, which is normally supposed to be 50 percent or higher, helps determine heart failure and possible treatment. This ejection fraction is nothing but the factor which helps know how well the heart is pumping.
But, the fraction is not necessarily the only cause of heart failure, as a normal fraction can also lead to heart failure. This is as a result of the heart muscles getting stiff which happens from conditions such as high blood pressure.
As far as the effect is of concern, the failure can be caused at the left side (left ventricle), right side(right ventricle), or may even include both the sides of the heart. What generally happens is, the failure starts from the left side of the heart and then travels to the other side too. The left side is the main heart pumping chamber.
Types of heart failure
Left-sided heart failure – In this condition, the fluids of the body get retained in the lungs and it leads to difficulty in breathing and shortened breaths.
Right-sided heart failure – In this condition, fluids of the body gets retained in the abdomen, legs, and feet. This leads on to the swelling of all such areas.
Systolic heart failure – In this condition, there is a hindrance in the contractions of the left ventricle, as a result of which pumping problem arises.
Diastolic heart failure – It is also referred to as the heart failure with preserved ejection fraction. In this case, there is a filing problem in the left ventricle as a result of which it cannot relax or fill fully.
Factors of risk
As far as the risk factor is of concern, it took only one risk factor to cause heart failure, but if there are a lot of factors, the chances of risk increase double. The factors of risk are: –
- High blood pressure: If you have high blood pressure, your heart struggles and works a lot harder than it is supposed to. Might lead to complications, if the blood pressure gets really high.
- Coronary artery disease: In this disease, the arteries are narrowed and hence they reduce or limit the supply of oxy-rich blood to the heart. This results in weakened heart muscles and is a greater risk factor of heart failure.
- Heart attack: A heart attack is generally referred to as a coronary disease, which often occurs at a sudden. This sudden attack can greatly damage the heart muscle. We know the obvious here, in such a case, the heart will not function normally just the way it should, i.e. variance in pumping blood.
- Diabetes: Diabetes often leads to an increase in high blood pressure and coronary artery disease, and the complications of both the items have been explained above.
- Some diabetes medications: People consume drugs to keep diabetes under control. Few of the drugs, such as the rosiglitazone (Avandia) and pioglitazone (Actos) are claimed to have a greater risk of heart failure for certain people. If you have been taking these drugs, you need to talk to your doctor regarding the complications it can lead to and do not stop consuming them by yourself. It is best to consult your doctor and talk about it.
- Certain medications: Just like diabetes medicines, there are few categories of medications, which have side effects related to the failure of the heart. Such medications are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs); certain anesthesia medications; some anti-arrhythmic medications; certain medications used to treat high blood pressure, cancer, blood conditions, neurological conditions, psychiatric conditions, lung conditions, urological conditions, inflammatory conditions and infections; and other prescription and over-the-counter medications. The suggestions for these medicines are the same as well. Talk to your doctor about your concerns and do not take any of these medications by yourself.
- Sleep apnea: Sleep apnea is generally associated with the inability to breathe while sleeping. People who suffer from this issue often have lower blood oxygen levels and increased risk of abnormal heart rhythms. Both these health issues result in weakening the heart.
- Congenital heart defects: Some people are born with some or other kind of structural heart defects. That is, their defect lies from birth and there is a high chance they can acquire heart failure.
- Valvular heart disease: People who suffer from valvular heart disease, have great risks of heart failure and hence caution is to be taken with the consultation of a doctor.
- Viruses: Getting in contact with any kind of viral infections may also lead to the formation of damage in the heart muscles.
- Alcohol use: Drinking too much alcohol is extremely harmful, as it can weaken your heart muscles and often leads to heart failure.
- Tobacco use: Tobacco is extremely dangerous too and is yet another reason which can lead to heart failure.
- Obesity: Obesity is not healthy, and people who are obese have higher chances of acquiring heart failure than normal and fit people.
- Irregular heartbeats: If there are abnormal rhythms in the heartbeats, these can lead to weakening the heart muscles and then eventually lead to heart failure. The changes in acquiring heart failure increase if the abnormal rhythms are a lot more frequent
- Complications: If you suffer from heart failure, your well being and how you are doing will vary as per the cause, the severity, the overall health and also a few of other factors, such as age. If the individual in concern is given proper treatment, the symptoms will tend to improve and so will the heart function improve. It is important to know that, heart failure may be life-threatening as well. and hence, necessary steps and measures are to be taken, with the help of experts who would guide you thoroughly.
The complications include: –
- Kidney damage or failure
- Heart valve problems
- Heart rhythm problems
- Liver damage
Congestive heart failure treatment
The general type of treatment includes cutting on the ratio of fluids which happen to be present in the body. Reducing the body’s fluid often results in keeping the heart off a lot of strains and facilitates the heart’s ability to pump the blood. On the contrary, doctors may as well prescribe some medications which facilitate better pumping of blood or effective pumping. The medications involve angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs).
As per the differentiation in cases, the doctors may prescribe a different type of medication, and it is beta-blockers. Beta-blockers are prescribed to support blood pumping and also keep the heart rate stabilized. Some another common form of prescriptions includes diuretics and they help a body drain and get rid of any excess amount of liquids. Common diuretics include hydrochlorothiazide, bumetanide, and furosemide.
If the damage of congestive heart failure is excess and is in the later stages, doctors generally suggest surgery. In the surgery recommended, a left ventricular assisted device (LVAD) is inserted into the heart. This LVAD is generally a permanent solution where the pump helps the heart muscles contract. A full heart transplant may also be recommended, and it often varies on the suitability of the person for the operation.
Lifestyle changes to be adopted
Irrespective of the stages of congestive heart failure, the individual will be required to follow a healthy lifestyle and change the present lifestyle. Treatment remaining constant, doctors will most likely write off some important changes to the lifestyle which need to be adopted in order to reduce the impact of the congestive heart failure.
Making the changes is crucial as they play a vital role in slowing the condition of congestive heart failure and giving rise to a person’s quality life. Here are the changes you must definitely adopt and even abide by.
1. Diet and exercise
Diet and exercise are very important for everyone, but for the congestive heart failure patients, it is the need of the hour. The concerned individual needs to intake healthy and varied diet, being selective with the variety of food items consumed. Exercise is another important aspect which needs to be adopted.
Doctor’s recommendation includes the elimination of excess salt i.e. sodium form the regular diet. The recommendation is based on the ability of sodium in retaining fluids in the body, which is to be avoided by congestive heart failure patients. This also included saying no to alcohol definitely.
Regular aerobics exercise is highly recommended and for some of the patients, doctors plot a specialized exercise routine which would be the best for them.
2. Fluid restriction
The common issued experienced by people suffering from congestive heart failure is that their body retains an excessive amount of fluids. So, in order to avoid the complications which occur as a result of excess retaining of fluids, doctors suggest minimizing the consumption of fluids per day.
Another complication which may arise is that fluids also act on the diuretic medicines by reducing its effect if they are present in large amounts. But, staying hydrated is definitely necessary irrespective of the heart disease. So, it is the doctors who can suggest the amount of intake which is required by the body.
Weight gained as a result of water retention is a lot more concern than weight gained from fat accumulation. This case stands true for some of the congestive heart failure patients. Hence, your doctor would want you to check your weight regularly to know any increase in weight as a result of water retention.
If you wish to prevent heart failure, you need to reduce the risk factors which have already been mentioned above. Controlling the symptoms demand you off some necessary changes to the lifestyle. You need to adopt every healthy measure, with the right medications, as per the complications. To stay healthy, say no to all the bad habits which include no smoking, staying active and physically fit, eating healthy food and improving the patterns of consumption.
Keeping track of the weight and maintaining the right proportion, and most important of all-knowing the art of managing stress by reducing it in any way possible. Stress also gives birth to complications in the body and hence, it is best to keep it reduced.