Congestive Heart Failure is the heart’s inability to supply oxygen rich blood to the body. The heart has four chambers, two atria’s, which make up the upper chambers of the heart, and two ventricular chambers, which make up the lower chambers of the heart. It is the job of the lower chambers of the heart to work as a pump. When these chambers no longer function properly as a pump then congestive heart failure sets in. It can affect other organs of the body as well due to the lack of oxygen to the body’s organs.
Who Suffers From Heart Failure?
Many people have the potential to suffer from Congestive Heart Failure. Those patients who have suffered from a heart attack or infection of the heart also known as myocarditis. These conditions cause a weakening in the heart muscle. This weakening will not allow the blood to be properly pumped through the heart. Other diseases that may contribute to this health problem is hemochromatosis and amyloidosis which both cause a hardening of the heart muscle not allowing the ventricle’s to relax to be properly refilled. High blood pressure can also cause a thickening of the heart muscle which does not allow for proper heart pumping. People who smoke and are at greater risk for heart disease are also at a higher risk of Heart Failure.
What Causes It?
Many diseases can cause Congestive Heart Failure. Many diseases cause the heart to not be able to effectively pump oxygenated blood throughout the body. In the United States the leading causes are:
- Coronary Artery Disease
- Long Term Alcohol Abuse
- High Blood Pressure
- Disorders of the Heart Valves
Other causes of Congestive Heart Failure that are not as commonly found include:
- Viral Infections
- Stiffening of the Heart Muscle
- Thyroid disorders
- Heart Rhythm Disorders
- Patients with underlying heart diseases who also take certain medications such as NSAID’s
What are the Symptoms?
- Fatigue: This is the first symptom of Congestive Heart Failure. This symptom alone can be indecisive as it is also the symptom of many other illnesses.
- Swelling or Fluid Retention: It can be noticed in the ankles and the legs as well as a swollen abdomen.
- Shortness of Breath: This caused by additional fluids pooling in the lungs making breathing more difficult.
- Lack of Sleep: Patients suffering from Congestive Heart Failure find sleeping difficult unless sleeping in an upright position.
- Frequent Urination: This is caused by the extra fluid and is commonly bothersome at night.
- Nausea, Decreased Appetite and Abdominal Pain: This is also due to extra fluid in the liver and intestines.
Alternative Treatments for Congestive Heart Failure
While there are no over the counter treatments for Congestive Heart Failure there are Alternative treatments that can help improve the symptoms and treat the problem. The main alternative treatments are associated with diet and fluid intake. Since sodium increases water retention and congestive heart failure is worsened by water retention it is important to reduce sodium and fluid intakes.
It is suggested that patients who suffer from Congestive Heart Failure will benefit from a low sodium diet and reduced fluid intakes. While most low sodium diets still have a significant amount of sodium. These diets contain 4 to 6 grams of sodium while a low sodium diet for those with it should be reduce to less than 2 grams of sodium. It is also important to reduce fluid intake to 2 quarts per day. The extra fluid that the body retains tends to accumulate around the heart and lungs putting more stress on those patients with this health issue.
While diet is important part of a treatment for Congestive Heart Failure it is also important to increase aerobic exercise. At one time aerobic exercise was frowned upon but new research shows that exercise can great benefit for it.
Congestive Heart Failure should always involve a doctor’s advice. This is a condition that should be monitored closely by a physician.
Medical Treatment for Congestive Heart Failure
There are several medications used today to treat and help prolong the lives of patients with Congestive Heart Failure. These medications include:
Beta Blockers: Alone this medication is not suggested for patients with Congestive Heart Failure. This medication in addition to ACE Inhibitors can be successful.
Ace Inhibitors: Currently this is the number one medication suggested for patients with Congestive heart failure. It has been proven to improve the condition of patients while preventing further worsening of the condition.
Angiotension Receptor Blockers: This relatively new addition to the Congestive Heart Failure medications. It has been successfully used in place of Ace Inhibitors. One trial showed that this was a better drug than ace inhibitors but currently more information on the effects of this medication is needed to verify these findings.
Diuretics: This medication is used to reduce the water retention.
Digoxin: This medication has been used for hundreds of years to treat Congestive Heart Failure. It is found naturally in the foxglove flowering plant. It is used to increase the pumping action of the heart muscle. It allows the heart to beat more forcefully.
There are also several surgical procedures that can be performed to help correct it. The least invasive are procedures to restore blood flow to the heart. Coronary artery or catheter procedures such as angioplasty or intracoronary stents can be used to improve blood flow to the heart.
Valve surgery can also help reverse the effects of congestive heart failure. In the most extreme cases a heart transplant can be performed to preserve life. This is only done in the most severe cases and only for patients that can qualify for the procedure.