There are few things in life that are scarier than hearing that you or a loved one has a heart condition. Things can get even more overwhelming if you keep hearing medical terms that go right over your head.
In hopes of helping you better navigate such a sensitive situation, below is an overview of what is congestive heart failure, what causes it, how to recognize early signs, and what you can do to treat it.
What is Congestive Heart Failure?
Congestive heart failure is a serious condition in which a person’s heart fails to pump blood properly. As a result, blood is backed into the patient’s lungs, abdomen, liver, and other organs. It’s a progressive illness and can be life-threatening.
There is no cure for congestive heart failure.
Congestive Heart Failure is often caused by underlying cardiovascular conditions, such as coronary artery disease, hypertension, heart valve disease, myocarditis, congenital heart defects, or heart attack.
Early Warning Signs
While there are many people who ignore mild symptoms of illness, it’s important to pay close attention to early warning signs of congestive heart failure. These include:
– Shortness of breath
– A reduced ability to do physical activity
– Fluid retention
– Increased need to urinate
– A persistent cough
– Lack of appetite
– Swelling of the abdomen
Symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure
Before listing signs, it’s crucial to note that a person may not feel any symptoms during the early stages of congestive heart failure. This is why it’s essential to get yearly checkups, especially if you have a history of heart disease. That said, once the condition starts advancing, a patient may notice the following symptoms:
– Irregular heartbeat
– Swelling of feet, ankles, and legs
– Shortness of breath
– Chest pain that radiates throughout the torso
– A bluish tint to the skin
– Blood in phlegm
Stages of Congestive Heart Failure
There are four stages of congestive heart failure.
1. Class I. During this stage, the person won’t experience any symptoms. If diagnosed early, it can be managed through lifestyle modifications.
2. Class II. The person may feel comfortable and healthy while at rest. However, physical activity will cause shortness of breath, a faster heart rate, and fatigue. At this stage, it can still be managed through lifestyle changes and medication.
3. Class III. During the Class III stage, even mild exercise will cause the patient to feel fatigued and out of breath.
4. Class IV. Symptoms including shortness of breath, a fast heart rate, and fatigue are present even when the patient is at rest. At this point, the medical provider will offer palliative care.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If your primary care physician suspects that you may have congestive heart failure, she or he will refer you to a cardiologist for further testing. These may include an electrocardiogram, an MRI, an echocardiogram, and blood tests.
Once diagnosed, the doctor will prescribe different types of medication, depending on the stage of the condition. Some of them work to open up narrowed blood vessels or reduce blood pressure. The medical provider may also recommend diuretics to help remove excess fluid from the body.
As a last resort, a cardiologist may recommend surgery to repair blocked arteries or heart valves.
When a person’s heart is not working efficiently, there’s a ripple effect on the rest of the body. This is because all of the organs need adequate blood flow and oxygen to keep working. Some of the most common complications from congestive heart failure include kidney and liver damage. It can also cause additional health conditions, such as arrhythmia.
Risk factors for developing congestive heart failure include:
1. High blood pressure. When a person has high blood pressure, their heart has to work harder. If it has to work harder, it can become enlarged, which makes it work less efficiently.
2. Diabetes. This is because the condition increases a person’s risk of high blood pressure. In addition, some diabetes medications can increase the risk of heart failure.
3. Obesity. People who are obese have a significantly higher likelihood of developing cardiovascular diseases.
4. Sleep apnea. Sleep apnea occurs when a person stops breathing for several seconds while sleeping. They then wake themselves up as they gasp for air. The lack of oxygen increases the likelihood of high blood pressure and heart failure.
5. Heart attacks. Once a person experiences a heart attack, the heart muscles may be weakened, which impairs its ability to pump blood properly.
6. Alcoholism. Excessive consumption of alcohol increases the risk of high blood pressure as well as several heart conditions, including congestive heart failure.
7. Smoking. It’s not news to say that smoking is bad for you. Not only does it cause cancer, it also makes your heart work much harder. As if that weren’t enough, tobacco use also causes fatty build ups in the arteries. As a result, the heart muscles are weakened.
Preventing heart failure involves several lifestyle factors:
– Reduce stress
– Get enough sleep
– Maintain a healthy weight
– Exercise regularly
– Quit smoking
– Eat plant-based whole foods and lean proteins
– Limit alcohol intake
If You or a Family Member is Living With Heart Disease, Contact Senior Living Specialists in Dallas
At Senior Living Specialists, we provide assistance for the senior citizen community in Dallas. Whether it’s home care or assisted living, we have all the support and experience necessary to provide healthcare and support to your loved one.
Call us at (214) 929-5055 or fill out our online contact form.