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Heart Failure: The Silent Killer

Updated on November 16, 2014

Heart Disease

What is Congestive Heart Failure?

Congestive Heart Failure occurs when the heart muscle is no longer able to pump the adequate amount of oxygenated blood throughout the body. The blood flowing out of the heart slows down which causes the blood returning to the heart to back up into the circulatory system and congest the surrounding tissues. Failure does not mean that the heart has stopped, it just isn’t pumping as well as it should. Roughly 670,000 people are diagnosed with Heart Failure each year.

Why is it called ‘The Silent Killer’?

Your body can do an amazing job at making up for Heart Failure. So much so that many have no idea they are living with the disease however, without treatment, at some point, the heart and body will no longer be able to keep up

How is CHF diagnoses?

Tests are required to find the cause and type of CHF so that the correct treatment is diagnosed. The following tests are the steps physicans administer:


  1. Blood Tests

  2. Chest X-Ray

  3. EKG

  • This checks the hearts electrical system

  1. Echocardiogram

  • The best and easiest way to diagnose heart failuire

  • Shows the size and shape of the heart

  • See how well the heart is pumping blood

  • Also used to monitor the progress of CHF in patients

  1. Cardiac Catheterization

  • Checks the heart and blood vessels

  1. Stress Test

How does this affect my heart? What should I expect?

CHF causes the body to hold onto salt and water. This increases the amount of blood in your blood stream. A number of issues may arise from this including; fluid build up in the lungs, your heart beating faster, and your heart gets bigger. While CHF causes the heart muscle itself becomes stronger physically, the body is not meant for the heart to get bigger. This creates a ton of pressure on the chest cavity and surrounding organs.


In the early stages of Heart Disease, symptoms are minimal however, as CHF progresses, activity must be limited. Fluid will begin to build up in your body causing your to feel weak and shortness of breath. It may feel as though your heart is constantly pounding, swelling in your ankles, legs and feet, weight gain, frequent urination, bloated or sick feeling in your stomach, and finally a cough or wheeze (especially when laying down) . It gets worse over time however, treatment can slow down its progress and help the patient live a more comfortable life making it easier to manage.

Over time, CHF often leads to many other health problems;

  1. Trouble with heart rhythm (Arrythmia)

  2. Stroke

  3. Heart Attack

  4. Mitral valve Regurgitation

  5. Blood Clots

  6. Deep vein Thrombosis

  7. Pulmonary Embolism

How is CHF Treated?

A defibrillator/pacemaker is put into place if there is a problem with the rhythm of the heart. Simple lifestyle changes are also an important part of treatment as they can help slow down CHF and control other diseases that make CHF worse. By eating less salt, exercising regularly, taking more “rest breaks” throughout the day, losing excess weight, stop smoking and limiting alcohol intake. Most patients are required to take several medications to:

  1. Help keep the Heart Failure from getting worse

  2. Reduce symptoms

  3. Treat the cause

In rare cases, medicine and lifestyle changes have been found to reverse Heart Failure.

CHF can get worse suddenly and without warning. IF this does happen, seek medical attention immediately. This is a life threatening disease that leaves no room to be taken lightly.



References:

Heart Disease and Congestive Heart Failure. (2005). In WebMD. Retrieved November 16, 2014, from http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/guide-heart-failure

© 2014 BriannaGalapir

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