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Home :: Cardiology Disorders

Heart Failure

 

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Heart Failure is defined as a state of abnormality of the cardiac function where the rate of pumping blood by the heart does not commensurate with the requirement of peripheral tissues. Heart failure develops when the pumping action of the heart is inadequate. Lifestyle changes, such as exercising, reducing salt intake, managing stress, treating depression, and especially losing excess weight, also can help prevent fluid buildup and improve your quality of life. ). Blood then accumulates in the veins. In diastolic dysfunction, the heart is stiff and does not relax normally after contracting. Even though it may be able to pump a normal amount of blood out of the ventricles, the stiff heart does not allow as much blood to enter its chambers from the veins. Your best defense against heart failure is to prevent or control risk factors and aggressively manage any underlying conditions such as coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or obesity.

Heart failure, also known as congestive heart failure, means your heart can't pump enough blood to meet your body's needs. It is not to be confused with " cessation of heartbeat ", which is known as asystole , or with cardiac arrest , which is the cessation of normal cardiac function in the face of heart disease. Over time, conditions such as coronary artery disease or high blood pressure gradually sap your heart of its strength, leaving it too weak or too stiff to pump efficiently. Your body also struggles to get waste materials to the lungs and kidneys where they would normally be excreted. Heart failure is caused by various other conditions including heart disease and is most common in those over 65.  Right heart failure occurs if blood returning from the body to the right side of the heart cannot be moved on to the lungs quickly enough. Often swelling (edema) results. Most often there's swelling in the legs and ankles, but it can happen in other parts of the body, too. Pumping has two aspects: to move a fluid into something (the heart pumps blood into the arteries) and to move a fluid out of something (the heart moves blood out of the veins, as a sump pump moves water out of a basement).

The words "heart failure" sound alarming, but they do not mean that your heart has suddenly stopped working. This is a serious condition that has no cure, but you can live a full and enjoyable life with the right treatment and active attention to your lifestyle. Because not all patients have volume overload at the time of initial or subsequent evaluation, the term "heart failure" is preferred over the older term "congestive heart failure". Congestive heart failure is often undiagnosed due to a lack of a universally agreed definition and difficulties in diagnosis, particularly when the condition is considered "mild". The pumping power of the heart is reduced to below normal levels, which results in inadequate blood supply to other organs, such as the brain, liver and kidneys. Medications can improve the signs and symptoms of chronic heart failure and lead to improved survival. Heart failure has two main forms: systolic dysfunction (which is more common) and diastolic dysfunction. In systolic dysfunction, the heart contracts less forcefully and cannot pump out as much of the blood that is returned to it as it normally does.

Causes of Heart Failure

1. Pulmonary Embolism: Patients of low physical activity or who are confined to bed are at an increased risk of developing a thrombus in the veins of the lower extremity. A part of this thrombus breaks off and gets impacted in the pulmonary veins of the lungs. This causesa severe backpressure on the right ventricle.

2. Infection: Any infection can precipitate heart failure. The resulting fever, high pulse rate, hypoxia (low oxygen) may place a burden on an overloaded heart.

3. Severe Anemia: Oxygen needs of peripheral tissues has to be fulfilled in the presenceof severe anemia. Increased heart pumping can help achieve this in a normal heart. But a diseased heart is unable to cope up and fails.

4. Hyperactive Thyroid and Pregnancy: Places a tremendous strain on diseased heart, which then fails.

Other common causes of Heart Failure :

  • Coronary artery disease (narrowing of the blood vessels to the heart)--often people with heart failure have had a heart attack in the past
  • High blood pressure (also known as hypertension)
  • Problems with any of the heart valves
  • Blood and fluid to "back up" into the lungs
  • The buildup of fluid in the feet, ankles, and legs
  • Toxic exposures, like alcohol or cocaine
  • Years of uncontrolled high blood pressure damages both heart and blood vessels.
  • Cardiomyopathy ( heart muscle disease),
  • Excessive alcohol consumption,
  • Congenital heart disease (a heart problem you were born with)

Symptoms of Heart Failure

Some are common Symptoms of Heart Failure :

  • Weight gain
  • Swelling of feet and ankles
  • Pronounced neck veins
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Shortness of breath with activity, or after lying down for a while
  • Waking up in the night, suddenly breathless
  • General tiredness or weakness
  • low blood pressure,
  • Sweating, 
  • Lack of appetite and nausea
  • Tiredness and fatigue.
  • Asthma due to the heart problem.

Treatment of Heart Failure

Here is the list of the methods for treating Heart Failure :

  • Most people with heart failure can still exercise, but your doctor will help you decide how much and what kind of exercise you can do.
  • Digoxin helps the heart by making it beat more strongly and pump more blood.
  • Heart failure surgeries include the left ventricular assist device, coronary bypass grafting, mitral valve repair, ventricular surgeries and sometimes heart transplantation.
  • Appropriately diagnosing and analyzing the problem
  • Lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Diuretics, or water tablets, which work on the kidneys to remove the extra fluid and salt from the body and lower blood pressure.
  • Aspirin also stops blood clots from forming.
  • Making lifestyle changes, including: monitoring your weight by weighing yourself at the same time each day and recording your weight; increasing your activity level (as recommended by your provider); resting more often; planning your activities; losing weight if you are overweight; not smoking or chewing tobacco; avoiding or reducing alcohol.