Congestive heart failure – causes, symptoms and treatments

November 12, 2012

Congestive heart failure – causes, symptoms and treatments

Congestive heart failure is the result of reduced heart function – when the heart can no longer efficiently pump blood around the body. The heart does not stop as a result of this condition but rather fails to work properly.

Congestive heart failure can be caused by several factors and the underlying cause of the condition will, in turn, determine the treatment. For example, the treatment program for congestive heart failure caused by a simple infection would be an antibiotic regimen. Other treatment programs may include the prescription of medications to dilate blood vessels.

Healthy diet and exercise

Most people are aware of the importance of a healthy diet and regular exercise for heart health. Eating a wide variety of fresh foods from each of the various food groups – that is fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and lean protein – as well as ensuring that meals are low in sodium and fat, will do much to protect the heart from damage or disease. A healthy diet is essential in order to maintain a healthy weight and when combined with regular exercise is known to be of great benefit to overall health and fitness – not just the heart.

Symptoms of heart failure

Some symptoms of heart failure are fairly general and may easily be mistakenly attributed to other conditions. It is essential to inform your medical practitioner if you notice any increase in the symptoms themselves or in their severity.

  • Persistent cough – often worse when laid down

  • Extreme and unusual fatigue

  • Swelling, or oedema, of the hands, feet, ankles, legs.

  • Swelling of the abdomen

  • Sudden, unexplained, weight gain

  • Palpitations

  • Irregular pulse

  • Difficulty sleeping

Age related

Development of certain illnesses, including congestive heart failure, is often a normal part of the aging process. Underlying conditions that are risk factors for heart failure are generally more common in older patients – these conditions included damage to the heart valve, high blood pressure, weakened heart muscles, arterial disease.

It is also recognised the tobacco use, excess alcohol use and substance abuse may contribute to the development of heart failure as these practices expose the heart to dangerous toxins.

Coronary stent

A blood vessel which is blocked may well be forced open using a coronary stent. This is often placed during an angioplasty procedure where the doctor uses a balloon to remove the blockage in the artery and then places the stent so that it forces the artery walls to remain open. This procedure is relatively simple and is usually carried out as an outpatient.

Bypass surgery

Where the blockage of an artery is more severe, perhaps even total, then the usual, preferred treatment is coronary artery bypass graft surgery – a procedure with some risk but which is generally successful.

The success of any treatment for congestive heart failure depends largely on the underlying cause of the condition and also upon the patient’s willingness to help themselves, by implementing the recommended simple lifestyle changes to diet and exercise.

The life expectancy of individuals with congestive heart failure is also dependent on its underlying cause and the success of any treatment regime.

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