What is Congestive Heart Failure?
Heart failure occurs when the heart fails to pump blood as per its full potential. Blood moves through the muscles and chambers of the heart at a considerably slower rate, thereby causing ‘heart failure.’ In order to address this issue, the chambers of the heart expand and stretch to accumulate more blood to circulate which may also cause them to stiffen up.
Even though the heart may temporarily go back to being normal, it does not solve the root of the problem. When the pumping capacity of the heart is challenged, the kidney tends to start retaining more fluid i.e. water and salt. This excessive fluid accumulation in the body leads to oedema in the arms, legs, ankle and feet. Other organs too face fluid buildup which leads to congestion in various parts of the body, and hence the term ‘Congestive Heart Failure.’
What are the causes of Congestive Heart Failure?
Heart failure is primarily concerned with the heart, and all other symptoms come in secondary. Any condition which reduces the full working capacity of the heart will definitely play a part in congestive heart failure. Myocardial infarction is one such condition which ceases the flow of oxygen to the heart. This results in further complications. Another condition which causes heart muscles to undergo forceful contractions is hypertension, and this may very well be the reason behind the occurrence of a heart failure.
What are its signs?
Since the signs of heart failure are not very apparent, one needs to keep an open eye and have presence of mind to determine the occurrence of a heart attack. There are a few symptoms and signs which usually occur where complications of the heart are concerned. The most common ones are:
- Shortness of breath: The excessive water accumulation in the body takes a toll on the function of lungs. Fluid gets collected in the lungs when the person with CHF lies down, thereby causing great difficulty in breathing. This is one of the earliest symptoms of heart risk disease.
- Excessive urination: This is the most common sign which should immediately bring to mind a kidney or heart disorder. In layman’s terms, the kidney recognises the excessive water content and tries to filter it out. Hence frequent and excessive urination occurs as a result.
- Chest pain: Shooting chest pains occur by virtue of sudden contractions of the heart muscles. This pain is initiated by a tingling sensation in the left arm and increases so much that it becomes nearly impossible to even lift the left arm. This is one of the differentiating factors of a heart attack. For a patient with a history of heart risk, even any minor chest pain should not be neglected.
- Swelling of hands and feet: Oedema of the hands and feet increases swelling in them. The water retention exceeds its limit and becomes more apparent as the night draws nearer. It may also be noticed and seen right after exercising or post physical activity.
- Nausea: For a patient with a heart at risk, nausea may not be something unknown. This symptom should never be overlooked. In most cases, nausea is coupled with a sudden and huge drop in appetite.
- Unclear memory: The imbalance happening in the body due to severe water congestion leads to the amount of electrolytes and their counterparts going haywire. This causes a decrease in the mental capacity. Although no severe changes happen, the memory and understanding of the patient is clearly affected, and is reflected in day to day mundane activities.
How should the signs of Congestive Heart Failure be addressed?
The symptoms listed above are not exclusive for a Congestive Heart Failure, but are closely linked to it. Therefore, when any of these issues occur, it is one’s best interests to go seek professional aid and undergo proper diagnosis. More often than not, correct and timely diagnosis prevents the situation from worsening further, since CHF is not something to be casual about. Health should be given utmost priority especially when matters of the heart are concerned.