Congestive Heart Failure

congestive heart failureOverview
Congestive Heart Failure (CHF), or Heart Failure, is when the heart muscle weakens and does not pump as well as it should to to deliver oxygen-rich blood to your body’s cells. This failure generally happens slowly over time. The arteries in your heart narrow, creating hardening of the arteries (coronary artery disease) and / or high blood pressure.  These symptoms will gradually leave your heart too weak or still to fill and pump blood efficiently.   

To compensate for the weakening, the heart muscle enlarges and forces itself to work overtime (pump faster) to compensate and move more blood through the body. This causes the heart to become weak, enlarged and beat faster. The term may sound alarming, however it does not mean that your heart has suddenly stopped working.

A patient may go for years without symptoms, and the symptoms tend to get worse with time. This slow onset and progression of CHF is caused by the heart’s own efforts to deal with its gradual weakening, which happens when the heart’s weak pumping action causes a build-up of fluid called congestion in your lungs and other body tissues.

The number of patients with CHF is on the rise due to more and more people surviving heart attacks, living longer and surviving other medical conditions including other types of heart and vessel disease.

Cardiology Associates’ physicians are specially trained to treat Congestive Heart Failure. They have a sophisticated level of expertise and apply their knowledge of treatment protocols in order to ensure the best possible patient outcome.

Conditions and Risk Factors for CHF

  • Previous heart attack
  • Coronary Artery Disease
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Arrhythmia’s (irregular heart beats)
  • Heart Valve disease (especially of the aortic and mitral valves)
  • Cardiomyopathy (damage of the heart muscle)
  • Congential Heart Defects
  • Myocarditis
  • Alcohol and drug abuse


Early Symptoms/Indications of CHF

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fluid retention
  • Gastric Pains
  • Nausea/Bloating
  • Loss of Appetite


Treatment Approaches

Most conditions that lead to heart failure cannot  be reversed, but heart failure can often be treated with good results.  Medications can improve the symptoms of heart failure.  Lifestyle changes, such as exercising, reducing the salt in your diet, weight loss and stress management can also help to improve your quality of life. 

Should you have a diagnosis of heart failure and any symptoms suddenly become worse or new symptoms develop it may mean that your heart failure is not responding to treatment or is worsening.  Should this occur, you should contact your doctor promptly.

Some CHF patient's symptoms will improve with proper treatment, however, heart failure can be life threatening.  It can lead to sudden death.  Patients with heart failure may have severe symptoms and some may require heart transplantation or support with an artificial heart device.

Ralph S. Buckley, M.D.

Clinical Cardiology