Heart failure, sometimes called congestive heart failure, occurs when the heart doesn’t pump blood properly. Some conditions, such as coronary heart disease or high blood pressure, lead to the heart being too weak to pump efficiently. Not every condition leading to heart failure can be reversed. However, treatments can improve signs, symptoms, and quality of life of a person living with heart disease to designed to help you live longer.
What Is Heart Failure?
The body relies on the heart’s pumping action to deliver oxygen and nutrients in the blood to the body’s cells. When they receive proper nourishment, the body is able to function normally. When your heart fails, your heart becomes weakened and cannot supply the cells in your body with the blood they need. This results in shortness of breath and fatigue and sometimes coughing. Everyday activities and operations may become difficult as a result.
Heart failure is a chronic and progressive condition involving the muscles in the heart being unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s demands for nutrients. This weakened state results in:
- Enlarging as the heart contracts sharply to keep up with demand.
- Developing more muscle mass as the heart enlarges due to increased demand.
- Increased heart rate.
Types of Heart Failure
There are three different types of heart failure and each comes with a different set of symptoms and projected outcomes. It’s important to recognize the difference between each of them so you can understand your options and overall prognosis.
Left Ventricular Failure
The left ventricle supplies the bulk of the heart’s pumping power, making it larger than the other chambers of the heart. This also means it is essential to normal heart function. In left-sided or left ventricular failure, the left side of the heart works harder to pump the same amount of blood, resulting in heart failure.
There are two kinds of left ventricular (LV) failure:
- Reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF). It is also called systolic failure. This causes the left ventricle to lose its ability to contract normally and prevents normal blood circulation.
- Preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF). It is also called diastolic failure. Because the left ventricle losing its ability to relax, the muscle becomes stiff. This means the heart begins to fill with blood because it cannot pump the blood back out between each beat in the resting stage.
Right Ventricular Failure
The heart’s pumping action cycles out used blood which in turn returns to the heart through the right atrium into the right ventricle. When this action is done, the right ventricle pumps the blood out of the heart and back into the lungs to be replenished with oxygen before it returns to the body.
In right-sided or right ventricular (RV) failure, failure typically occurs as a result of left ventricular failure. When this happens, there is an increase in fluid pressure which transfers back into the lungs, damaging the right side of the heart. Blood begins to back up into your veins as your heart loses pumping power. This will typically cause swelling and/or congestion in the legs and ankles. It can also cause swelling within the GI tract and liver, causing ascites.
Congestive Heart Failure
Congestive heart failure requires immediate and timely medical intervention. This occurs when blood flow in and out of the heart slows and blood returning to the heart begins to back up, causing congestion in the body’s tissues. Edema is a common symptom. There is typically swelling in the ankles and legs, though it can occur in other parts of the body as well.
This buildup of blood and fluid can interfere with breathing, causing shortness of breath, typically when lying down. This is called pulmonary edema, which can cause extreme respiratory distress if untreated.
Who Is at Risk for Heart Failure?
The most common conditions leading to heart failure involve coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, and a history of heart disease or a previous heart attack. If you have one or more of these conditions, it is critical that you manage them in order to prevent the onset of heart failure.
Other risk factors include:
- High blood cholesterol
- Being overweight
- Physical inactivity
- Family history of early heart disease
- History of preeclampsia during pregnancy
Treatments for Heart Failure
Heart failure is a chronic condition that requires lifelong management. With the proper course of treatment, signs and symptoms of heart failure can be improved. These are designed to help you live longer and reduce your chance of sudden death.
Doctors typically treat heart failure with a combination of medications. These include:
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers
- Aldosterone antagonists
- Digoxin (Lanoxin)
AMA medical group was founded to support every member of the community. If you have had a heart attack and are experiencing symptoms, don’t hesitate to contact us at (727) 331-8740 to schedule an appointment.