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Congestive Heart Failure: Causes, Symptoms, and Risk Factors

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Ebiojo David
I am a Biochemist and Naturopath, I love writing and educating people on health and wellness matters.

Congestive heart failure is a condition that is characterized by the inability of the heart to pump sufficient amount of blood required to meet the needs of the body.

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This condition is also called by many other names such as cardiac failure, right-sided heart failure, left-sided heart failure, and CHF (CHF refers to the stage where fluids accumulate around the heart and make it pump ineffectively). It also occurs when the heart is unable to pump blood fast enough.

Congestive heart failure does not signify that your heart has stopped working or it’s about to stop working. It simply means that your heart cannot pump sufficient amount of blood the way it should that meets the needs of the body.

As a result of this, the heart cannot meet up with the demands of the body and blood returns to the heart faster than it can be pumped out. Then the heart becomes congested.

One or both sides of your heart can be affected and it is caused by the weakening of the heart muscles. When your heart muscles are weak, the ability of your heart to pump blood will definitely be affected.

When this occurs, you might feel tired easily and have shortness of breath, a condition edema occurs in which fluid is collected in your legs, ankles, and feet. Another condition weakening of the heart’s pumping ability causes is the accumulation of blood and fluid in the lungs.

How Congestive Heart Failure Affects The Body

The body tries to make up for this in many ways and one of the ways is to make the heart beat faster so that it takes less time for refilling after contraction but overtime this causes heart palpitations and less blood circulates in the body.

The heart also becomes enlarged, this happens when the heart tries to make room for blood, and the lungs get filled with fluid leading to shortness of breath.

The kidneys begin to retain sodium and water when they don’t get enough blood and this can lead to kidney failure. One important factor to note is that congestive heart failure is typically progressive whether it is treated or not.

This simply means it gradually gets worse. It is best prevented than treated and the best way to prevent congestive heart failure is to avoid the conditions that cause it or contribute to its development.

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If the conditions develop, you have to manage them slowly.

Symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure

Heart failure is not a silent condition, it produces a lot of symptoms and some of them are:

  • Chest pain
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weaknesses
  • Decreased alertness and difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Rapid weight gain from the retention of fluid
  • Irregular or rapid heartbeat
  • Sudden and severe shortness of breath and coughing up foamy and pink mucus
  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea), it occurs when you exert yourself or when you lie down
  • Severe chest pain especially if the heart failure is caused by heart attack
  • Reduced ability to exercise
  • Swelling of the abdomen
  • Increased need to urinate at night
  • Swellings of the feet and legs
  • Nausea

You should see a doctor immediately if you notice any of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Sudden and severe shortness of breath and coughing up foaming and pink mucus
  • Rapid heartbeat with shortness of breath, fainting, and chest pain
  • Severe weakness and fainting
  • Chest pain

You have to see a doctor or cardiologist for proper diagnosis because some health conditions share the same symptoms with congestive heart failure.

Patients who have advanced or more severe congestive heart failure will feel these symptoms even while resting.

Types of Congestive Heart Failure

Note that congestive heart failure is different from cardiac arrest, a condition that occurs when your heart stops beating. There are two main types of heart failure and they are:

  1. Heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF): This type of congestive heart failure occurs when the muscles of the heart are too weak, this leads to difficulty in pumping blood to all parts of the body.
  2. Heart failure with preserved injection fraction (HFpEF): This type of congestive heart failure takes place when the heart cannot produce sufficient blood even though it squeezes normally.

Classification of Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive heart failure is classified based on functional capacity which is the way people with heart failure feel when they take part in physical activities.

This measure is used in the classification of congestive heart failure and the stages are:

Class I:

There are no limits on activities and no shortness of breath is recorded. There is no chest pain or fatigue with ordinary physical exertion.

At this stage, heart failure can be managed by lifestyle changes, constant monitoring, and heart medications. But I would advise you handle these naturally because of the side effects of these medications.

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Class II:

With slight limits on activity, mild symptoms will be noticed when walking or engaging in other normal physical activity.

This stage can also be managed by lifestyle changes, careful and regular monitoring, and medications. Also, I would advise you still seek out natural health experts who can help. These drugs would just worsen the condition over time.

Class III:

There is a substantial limit on activity and shortness of breath. Other symptoms can also occur with less-than-ordinary physical exertion.

In this stage, treatment can be complicated. You have to talk to your naturopath or doctor and get educated about what this really means for you.

Class IV:

There are major limits on activity but the patient is unable to perform any physical ordinary activity without having the symptoms of congestive heart failure. The symptoms may also occur at rest.

Even at this stage there is no cure for congestive heart failure but there are things a professional naturopath will tell you to do and it will improve your conditions and boost your quality of life.

Risk Factors for Congestive Heart Failure

Age: Aged individuals who are 65 years old and older have increased risk of congestive heart failure because it is believed that the heart gets weaker with age.

Also, older people have endured diseases that can lead to heart failure.

Gender: Men are more prone to congestive heart failure than women.

Race: Congestive heart failure is more common in African-Americans than other races.

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Heart attack: A previous heart attack in the past increases one’s risk for heart failure

Obesity: Excess weight puts more strain and pressure on the heart, this leads diabetes and congestive heart disease, the two major causes of heart failure.

High blood pressure: If your blood pressure is high, your heart will work under pressure and this raises the risk for heart failure.

Diabetes: Diabetes increases your risk of high blood pressure and coronary artery disease.

Coronary artery disease: This condition is caused by narrowed arteries and they limit the ability of your heart to supply blood to all parts of the body. Also, this results in weak heart muscles.

Some diabetes medications: The diabetic drugs pioglitazone (Actos) and rosiglitazone (also known as Avandia) increases the risk of heart failure.

Talk to your doctor about this and see if he can get you off this medication, don’t try stopping on your own.

Certain Medications: Some medications can cause heart problems like congestive heart failure and some of them are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), anesthesia medications, some anti-arrhythmic medications, some medications used to treat high blood pressure, blood conditions, cancer, inflammatory conditions, neurological conditions, urological conditions, lung conditions, infections, and psychiatric conditions.

There are other prescription and non-prescription drugs that increase the risk of congestive heart failure. Handle all sickness and diseases naturally to cut down the risk of some chronic diseases which are caused by the side effects of drugs.

Sleep apnea: This is the inability to sleep properly at night due to obstruction in breathing. This condition leads to low levels of oxygen in the blood and it increases the risk of abnormal rhythm of the heart.

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These conditions weaken the heart and increase your risks of heart failure. Sleep apnea should be treated promptly and not ignored.

Viruses: A viral infection can damage the muscles of your heart

Alcohol: Excessive drinking can weaken your heart muscles and lead to heart failure

Tobacco use: Smoking and other ways of consuming tobacco such as chewing the leaves increases your risks of heart failure.

Causes of Heart Congestive Heart Failure

Most cases of heart failure are usually caused by underlying medical conditions such as:

High blood pressure (hypertension): This condition weakens the heart and blood vessels and it triggers the buildup of plaque. This reduces the flow of blood and leads to congestive heart failure.

Cardiac arrhythmia: This is a condition characterized by irregular heartbeats and it a root cause of congestive heart failure.

Heart valve disease: This is a condition whereby the heart valves have problems and it leads to congestive heart failure with time.

Cardiomyopathy: This is a disease affecting the muscles of the heart and it leads to congestive heart failure.

Coronary artery disease: This is a condition characterized by narrowed arteries and it is mostly caused by the buildup of plaques on the walls of the arteries.

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This leads to reduced flow of blood and congestive heart failure.

Congenital diseases and defects: These are problems present at birth and sometimes the heart can be affected.

Cure for Congestive Heart Failure

There is no cure for congestive heart failure yet but there are some natural therapies that can help you manage the symptoms of this condition and extend your lifespan.

As time goes on, congestive heart failure can get to its end-stage and it is highly important to know the end-of-life signs and symptoms for congestive heart failure.

Some of the signs and symptoms for end-of-life signs are:

Shortness of breath: This is also known as dyspnea and it is common throughout congestive heart failure but it becomes more persistent towards the end of life.

Patients will even experience dyspnea while resting as well.

No appetite: Lack of appetite is usually common in patients experiencing the end-of-life stage in chronic diseases including congestive heart failure.

Edema: These are swellings in different parts of the body and it occurs when the heart has difficulty in supplying sufficient amount of blood. Fluids can accumulate in the body thereby leading to swellings.

In congestive heart failure, these swellings usually happen in the abdomen and legs.

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Rapid heartbeat: The heart will begin to beat faster because more pressure is put on it to pump more blood and this, in turn, would make the heart work harder.

Delirium and confusion: Patients with congestive heart failure will experience some disorientation sometimes because the level of sodium in the blood is changing.

Wheezing and chronic cough: In the final months and weeks of congestive heart failure, chronic cough becomes more prominent. This cough is most times accompanied by wheezing and pink or white-colored mucus.

Treatment For Heart Congestive Failure

These treatments help to relieve the symptoms and improve the quality of life. In the early stages of congestive heart failure, the treatment involves lifestyle changes.

These include exercising, quitting smoking, losing weight, eating a heart-healthy diet (low-salt diet), and limiting the amount of daily fluid intake.

Patients are also placed on medications to improve the functions of their heart and increase their ability to live a normal life. To treat irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias), implantable cardiovascular defibrillator (ICD) are used.

Heart surgeries such as heart valve surgery or coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) can be carried out to correct the root cause of this condition and improve the symptoms.

Another effective way to treat this condition is to look for an experienced naturopath or Ayurvedic practitioner, they will handle these condition in a natural way which is void of side effects.

The treatment will be targeted at your whole body to bring it back into balance and not just treating the symptoms alone. When your whole body is restored and brought into balance, all other parts of your body including your heart will also be healed.

References;

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  1. Congestive heart failure; ScienceDirect
  2. Classes of heart failure; HEARTORG
  3. Congestive heart failure; Cincinnatichildrens
  4. Heart failure in children and adolescent; HEARTORG
  5. Heart failure; NCBI
  6. Types of heart failure; HEARTORG
  7. Heart failure; Mayo Clinic

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