Congestive Heart Disease 101: Understanding the Disease Process

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More than five million Americans are suffering from this disease but many people are still unaware of this condition. Many people are only aware of heart attack, high blood pressure and other more common forms of heart disease which is one reason why many people fail to recognize the important signs and symptoms that may point out to congestive heart disease.

How The Heart Fails To Pump

The heart’s main function is to supply blood to different organs in our body. It works as a pump in two ways: first is to pick up used blood from the body organs and sending them to the lungs for them to bind with oxygen; and second is to pump this oxygenated blood back to the body organs.

The four chambers inside the heart make it possible for the series of gas exchange and supplies to occur systematically. Congestive heart failure happens when the heart fails to serve either of both pumping mechanisms. Although heart failure is a dangerous condition, it does not happen abruptly. Heart failure happens gradually over time which means that one can be diagnosed with heart failure at an early onset.

Causes of Congestive Heart Failure

There are many known causes of Congestive Heart Failure—most commonly, heart failures may be attributed to damage to the heart muscles due to heart attack. When a person suffers from heart attack, a significant portion of the heart dies and such part won’t be able to pump blood the way normal heart muscles does.

Infectious diseases like pericarditis, endocarditis and myocarditis, as well as rheumatic heart disease may render the heart muscles weak—thus unable to pump blood efficiently. High blood pressure, especially if untreated may lead to CHF. This happens when the heart hypertrophies (enlarges) due to the increased workload of the heart. Although the heart enlarges in size, this does not equate to a more efficient pumping action because the heart cannot fully contract and relax inside the pericardium.

Signs and Symptoms of CHF

Signs and symptoms of this condition may vary—depending on the side where heart failure occurs. For a left sided heart failure, sign and symptoms are related to the respiratory tract and the lungs. This happens because the left side of our heart is responsible for pumping blood to the rest of the body. Failure to pump in this side will lead to the backflow of blood to the lungs where it gets the oxygen supply. These symptoms include constant, irritating and non-productive cough, shortness of breath, inability to breathe especially when lying down.

For a right sided heart failure, signs and symptoms commonly occurring are edema or swelling of the extremities since the right side of the heart is responsible in collecting blood from the rest of the body.

There are a variety of treatment methods that may be employed in a person with CHF—these treatment regimens will primarily aim to remove the excess fluid in the body, improve the heart muscles pumping action, as well as increasing the supply of oxygen to the rest of the body.




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