Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) or simply Heart Failure, is a condition wherein the heart fails to do its function effectively. If you are diagnosed with a heart failure, it doesn’t literally mean that your heart has stopped pumping. It just became weak or ineffective in pumping out blood due to multiple factors.
According to the 2017 data gathered by the American Heart Association (AHA), approximately 65 million people in the United States aged 20 years old and above are living with a heart failure. An estimated prevalence increases of 46% (8 million people) from 2012 to 2030 is being expected due to the country’s rapidly aging population.
Heart failure doesn’t discriminate among age groups. It can affect both children and adults. To date, no cure has been developed for heart failure. However, certain measures can be done to let the patients lead a normal life.
Getting to Know Your Heart
To understand heart failure, you need to be familiar with the basic structure and function of your heart.
Your heart’s main function is to pump oxygen-rich blood to all parts of your body, most especially your main organs such as the brain, lungs, liver, kidneys, and the heart itself.
Inside your heart are 4 chambers. You have 2 atria (receiving chambers) and 2 ventricles (pumping chambers).
They are further divided into left and right, each with a specific function to carry out:
- Right atrium: Receives blood from all parts of the body through your veins.
- Right ventricle: Receives blood from the right atrium and pumps it out to the lungs for oxygenation.
- Left atrium: Receives oxygen-rich blood that has passed through the lungs.
- Right ventricle: Receives blood from the left atrium and pumps it out to the rest of the body through your arteries.
What Happens in Heart Failure?
Heart failure happens when your blood cannot pump enough blood to supply the demands of your body, leading to certain health consequences. Heart failure can affect the right side of your heart, the left side, or both sides.
The latter is the most common presentation of heart failure.
- Right-sided heart failure: This happens when the right ventricle, whose function is to receive blood from the right atrium and pump it to the lungs for oxygenation, either fails to fill with blood or fails to pump out blood to the lungs. This will make the blood pool in your right ventricle, back to the right atrium, and back to the systemic circulation. For this reason, the signs and symptoms of right-sided heart failure include:
- Enema (buildup of fluids) in your legs, ankles, and feet
- Liver congestion leading to impaired liver function
- Ascites or the accumulation of fluid in the abdomen
- Left-sided heart failure: This condition affects the left ventricle, which is the biggest quadrant of all four. Either it fails to fill with enough blood or it fails to pump blood to the rest of the body. The blood will then pool in the left ventricle, back to the left atrium, and back to the lungs, resulting in lung problems and the appearance of the following signs and symptoms:
- Decreased cardiac output and lesser blood supply to the body’s organs
- Generalized body weakness and fatigue
- Inability to tolerate physical activity due to poor supply of oxygenated blood
- Shortness of breath due to fluid accumulation in the lungs
- Difficulty of breathing when lying flat in bed
What Causes Heart Failure?
When the heart is overworked, your heart muscles can become weak.
The following health conditions can usually cause this:
- Coronary Heart Disease: If you have a coronary heart disease, it means that the blood vessels that supply blood to your heart are blocked by plaques. This can lead to a poor blood supply to your heart, making your heart weaker and inefficient in pumping out blood.
- Diabetes: A high level of glucose in the blood increases the workload of your heart, making your heart weaker. It can also damage your blood vessels, most especially your coronary arteries that supply blood to your heart.
- High Blood Pressure: A consistently high blood pressure can damage your blood vessels and weaken your heart.
How to Live with Heart Failure?
- Take your medicines religiously. The medicines prescribed by your doctor can manage the condition but cannot treat and eliminate heart failure completely.
- Modify your lifestyle according to your doctor’s recommendation.
- Invest in the best blood pressure apparatus and stethoscope to monitor your blood pressure. Protect your equipment by storing them properly and securing them in a durable casing for stethoscopes.
- Follow your prescribed diet plan.
- Stay away from alcoholic drinks and cigarette smokes.
Although there is no known cure for heart failure, you can still live with it and lead a good life. Don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor and ask for advice regarding your physical activity and lifestyle preferences.
By Joe Fleming
who is the President at ViveHealth. Passionate about healthy lifestyles and living a full life, he enjoys sharing and expressing these interests through his writing. With a goal to inspire others and fight ageism, Joe writes to help people of all backgrounds and ages overcome life’s challenges. His work ranges from articles on wellness, holistic health and aging to social narratives, motivational pieces and news stories. For Joe, helping others is vital.