Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) is a condition where the heart is weakened and does not pump enough oxygenated blood to supply what the body needs. The weakened heart causes the blood to flow slower through the body and the walls of the heart may become stiff. The body begins to retain fluid, which builds up in the organs, arms, legs, ankles, and around the heart, causing congestion in the body.
Fluid retention is one of the main symptoms of CHF, causing swelling in the extremities and other parts of the body. The retention can cause congestion in the lungs which in turn causes shortness of breath and respiratory distress. Weakness, fatigue, and dizziness are often symptoms, caused by less blood flowing through the body to muscles and the major organs. The brain may also be deprived of enough blood causing confusion. Other symptoms may be irregular heartbeat or rapid heartbeat caused by the heart trying to pump more blood through the body. The symptoms of CHF may be intermittent or may remain constant.
The causes of CHF are other diseases that weaken or overwork the heart. Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) causes a decreased flow of blood to the heart. The arteries become narrowed or blocked which starves the heart of the oxygen and nutrients it needs and weakens the heart. A heart attack is caused when an artery becomes completely blocked, stopping blood flow to the heart. This causes damage to the heart by leaving scar tissue which impairs the heart from working properly. Cardiomyopathy is a disease in which the damage to the heart is caused by conditions other than those related to the arteries, such as drug or alcohol abuse, or infection. Other diseases that may cause CHF are high blood pressure, diabetes, valve disease, kidney disease, and birth defects of the heart.
There are various treatments for CHF, depending on the severity of the condition. Initially, cessation of smoking and drug and alcohol abuse is highly recommended. Treatment must begin for conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other lipid disorders. Diuretics and restriction of sodium and fluids is often prescribed to help with fluid retention. ACE inhibitors and BETA blockers may also be prescribed, and as the condition worsens, surgery maybe required to install a defibrillator. In the advance stages, bypass surgery may be required.