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Congestive Heart failure occurs when your heart can no longer pump the necessary blood to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the body. Heart failure does not mean that the heart has stopped working entirely, only that it is not pumping as much blood as it should be. It is called “congestive” because blood returns to the heart in greater volumes than it can pump out, resulting in a congestion of liquids in the heart chambers. Congestive heart failure is most common in individuals above the age of 60. It is also linked to obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
Heart disease and other cardiovascular conditions are the preeminent cause of congestive heart failure. But there are actually many other less common causes that can include: a number of infections, chemotherapy or radiation exposure, endocrine and thyroid disorders, complications from other diseases, and genetic predisposition.
Truth is, however, that the cause of congestive heart failure is often idiopathic, or unknown.
The following are risk factors for coronary artery disease:
If your doctor suspects you may be suffering from congestive heart failure, he or she may conduct the following diagnostic tests:
Symptoms of congestive heart failure are dependent on which side of the heart has failed.
Symptoms of left-sided failure include:
Symptoms of right-sided failure include:
Mortality rates can be as high as 20% at the one-year mark for congestive heart failure, meaning that 20% of patients will die within one year of diagnosis. Patients with congestive heart failure who have not experienced severe symptoms and have not been hospitalized have a much higher chance of living a long life with heart failure if they receive proper treatment.
No matter what is causing your heart’s health to be compromised, there are things you can do to improve it:
Most heart diseases and risk factors contributing to heart failure are screened for at regular physicals. The American Heart Association stresses the importance of regular screening for cardiovascular disease. American heart association volunteer and director of William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, Barry A. Franklin, Ph. D., said on the matter, “Regular cardiovascular screening is important because it helps you detect risk factors in their earliest stages. This way, you can treat the risk factor with lifestyle changes and pharmacotherapies, if appropriate, before it ultimately leads to the development of cardiovascular disease.”
Your doctor will most likely check the following:
If your doctor suspects you have a heart disease after a thorough examination, he or she may conduct several diagnostic tests to arrive at a diagnosis.
For healthy people, the following steps have been shown to help prevent or reduce the risk factors for heart failure. Keep in mind that reducing one risk factor may help reduce others:
There are a number of medical and other treatments used for congestive heart failure.
The following medications are used to treat congestive heart failure:
Beta blockers, which work by lowering the heart rate, thereby reducing the stress on the heart and preventing future heart attacks. These include:
Side effects of beta-blockers include:
*** Beta blockers can cause angina (chest pain) or heart attack if suddenly withdrawn. Never stop taking beta blockers without first talking to your doctor.
ACE (Angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors make your heart work less hard by lowering your blood pressure. Some ACE inhibitors are:
Side effects of ACE inhibitors include:
Angiotensin-receptor blockers (ARBs) blocks angiotensin II, a substance in the body, from constricting the blood vessels and stimulating salt and water retention. They include:
Side effects of ARBs include:
Digoxin, which helps to slow heart rate.
Side effects of digoxin include:
Diuretics help the kidneys eliminate sodium and water from the body. This process decreases blood volume, so your heart has less to pump with each beat, which in turn lowers blood pressure. Among the most popular are:
Side effects of diuretics include:
Hydralazine and Nitrates, which are used in combination to dilate blood vessels and allow for blood to be pumped more easily. These include:
Side effects of hydralazine and nitrate combination therapy include:
Aldosterone Antagonists, which work by preventing the body from producing hormones that are harmful to the heart. These include:
Side effects of aldosterone antagonists include:
SURGERY AND MEDICAL DEVICES
Surgical options and medical devices are also available to help the heart pump and receive blood. These include:
Coronary bypass surgery. During this procedure, the surgeon bypasses the blocked artery by making a graph with a vessel from another part of the body. This is an invasive open-heart surgery that is only recommended if the patient has multiple serious blockages. Success rates for coronary bypass surgery are between 95 and 98%.
Patients will typically need 1-2 days of close monitoring in an intensive care unit, followed by a hospital stay of 3-5 days. A fully recovery varies from person to person, but typically takes 6-12 weeks. Physical activity should be incorporated gradually to prevent discomfort and complications. Side effects of the surgery typically go away within 4-6 weeks of the procedure and may include:
Heart valve repair or replacement. Valvuloplasty can help to stop backflow from a damaged valve or restore a damaged seal. Valves that are damaged beyond repair can be replaced with a prosthetic valve.
Patients who undergo valvuloplasty will typically return home after an overnight stay in the hospital where they will monitor themselves for complications and return to physical activity within a span of several weeks as instructed by the doctor. Patients who undergo valve replacement surgery have a longer hospital stay (at least 2 days in intensive care and 3-5 in less intensive) and have a longer estimated time of recovery. Valve replacement patients should expect to spend at least 8-12 weeks recovering.
Valve replacement surgery has a very high success rate – only 1% of patients under 70 experience fatal complications from valve replacement surgery. Valvuloplasty has a success rate of 80-90% with a very low rate of post-procedure complications.
Implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs). ICDs are devices implanted under the skin that are connected to the heart and detect heartbeat abnormalities. In the event of an abnormal or rapid heartbeat, the CDI can attempt to shock the heart back into rhythm. Rates of ICD implementation success are high and recovery time is short (typically several weeks), though there is a 2-3% chance of potentially lethal infection. Patients with ICDs should be mindful of possible device interference with magnetic security systems, cell phones, medical equipment and headphones.
Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) or biventricular pacing. This involves the installation of a pacemaker that sends electric signals to the left and right ventricles, convincing them to work in a more synchronized ,efficient manner. CRTs are placed under the skin on the upper chest in a minimally invasive procedure that often only requires local anesthesia. A one or two day hospital stay in an intensive care until is necessary to monitor potential complications. Following their hospital stay, patients require several weeks of recovery at home during which they make a gradual return to physical activity. One year survival rates following CRT insertion are between 88-92%. Five year survival rates are between 65-50%.
Heart pumps. Heart pumps are used either as an alternative to heart transplant or as a way to keep patients alive while they wait for a heart transplant. Pumps are inserted into the abdomen or chest and help a weakened heart pump the necessary amount of blood to the body. Studies have shown that quality of life, survival, and overall health is greater in patients with severe congestive heart failure than those without. Survival rates can vary dramatically depending on the severity of the patient’s condition – anywhere from 30-80% after one year.
Heart transplant. Heart transplants are for patients who are no longer responsive to other treatment methods. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, patients must meet the following criteria:
The wait for a donor match on the transplant list can take weeks, months, or sometimes years. As with all transplant surgeries, there is the risk of transplant rejection, though there are medications available to lower this risk. Survival rates for heart transplant surgery are 87% after one year and about 50% after five.
Talk to your doctor about which treatment is right for you.
The following list of supplements is offered by the University of Maryland Medical Center. Always check with your cardiologist or primary doctor before adding supplements to your regimen for treating and preventing heart failure.
Many people with heart conditions take multiple medications, including blood-thinning medications, blood pressure medications, and others. The supplements below may interact with these (and other medications) and may not be right for people with certain medical conditions.
STRESS REDUCTION PRACTICES
Since stress is associated with heart disease, it’s prudent to try techniques to help reduce it. The following methods have been shown to reduce stress in some people:
Being diagnosed with heart failure can be difficult for you and your family, but there are things you can do to make your life easier and healthier.
Call 911 if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, which may be a sign of a HEART ATTACK:
You may wish to include the following doctors in your care team:
You will probably have different questions to ask your doctor depending on your heart condition. Be open about all your concerns. If you’re having difficulty focusing, bring along a friend or family member. Below you’ll find general questions you might want to ask your doctor about heart disease as suggested by the American Heart Association.
QUESTIONS ABOUT MEDICATION
QUESTIONS ABOUT DIET
QUESTIONS ABOUT EXERCISE
Behavior Change-Up for a Slimmer You
Extreme Exercise and Heart Health
A Narrow Escape
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