Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a problem in which the heart does not pump as well as it should. Fluid backs up in the lungs or the legs because the flow of blood is slowed down.
Left Sided Heart Failure
People with left sided heart failure have fluid that backs up in the lungs causing any or all of these symptoms: shortness of breath, coughing (sometimes coughing up frothy pink-tinged sputum) and/or difficulty breathing when lying down.
Right Sided Heart Failure
Right-sided heart failure can cause any or all of the following symptoms due to fluid retention: swollen legs and feet, upset stomach, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, low blood pressure and sudden weight gain (10 pounds or more).
It is possible to have left and right sided heart failure?
If this happens, you may have the following symptoms: fast heart rate, fatigue, confusion (due to poor blood flow to the brain) and paleness or blue color to the skin.
Congestive heart failure does not usually happen suddenly. It gradually worsens over the years.
There are many diseases that can cause congestive heart failure (CHF)
The basic problems in all of them is a weak heart muscle, or damaged heart valves. The conditions that may lead to CHF are:
Coronary artery disease
Heart valve damage
High blood pressure
Disease of the heart muscle itself (cardiomyopathy)
Defects in the heart present at birth (congenital heart defects)
Infection of the heart valves and/or heart muscle itself (endocarditis/myocarditis)
How is Congestive Heart Failure Diagnosed?
A doctor can often tell from a physical exam that a person has CHF. They will see swelling in the legs and feet, and can hear fluid in the lungs with a stethoscope. Other tests may include:
2. Chest x-ray
3. Cardiac catheterization
4. Nuclear scans of the heart
5. Exercise stress test
6. Electrocardiogram (EKG)
How is Congestive Heart Failure Treated?
The best treatment is to prevent heart disease and heart failure. The treatment usually involves the following:
2. Reduction of salt in the diet
3. Water pills
4. Heart medicines
(like digoxin/lanoxin and medicines that dilate the blood vessels)
Managing Congestive Heart Failure
Learn as much as you can about reducing salt in your diet. Do not use salt. Try other seasonings, like pepper, garlic, or lemon. Read food labels and stay away from products that have high sodium contents. Ask a dietitian, your doctor or nurse for more information about sodium.
Enough rest is also important for people with heart failure. Plan for rest periods during the day. Space out your activities, such as bathing, shaving, eating and dressing. Slow down your pace when doing things that cause you to become tired. When you are tired or out of breath, stop and rest for 20 to 30 minutes.
Weigh yourself daily, in the morning just after urinating and before breakfast. Always use the same scale and wear clothing that weighs about the same. Write down the date and your weight each day. If you gain 3 pounds or more in a day, call your doctor.
Take your medicines as your doctor has prescribed them. They will help control your symptoms.
See your doctor on a regular basis and take an active part in your care. If you recognize the early signs of heart failure, you may avoid a trip to the hospital for treatment.