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Heart Failure

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Heart failure, also known as CHF or congestive heart failure, is a condition where the heart is not capable of pumping enough blood to meet the needs of the body. There are a number of different health issues that can lead to this particular condition over time such as narrowing of the arteries in the heart, known as coronary artery disease, and high blood pressure. These conditions gradually weaken your heart until it cannot do its job anymore. Many of these things that lead to heart failure cannot be reversed. However, there still are treatment options for heart failure that can be employed in order to keep the heart functioning properly for a longer, healthier life.

Causes, Risk Factors and Complications of Heart Failure

Heart failure typically develops after a weakening of the heart or damage of the heart by another disorder or medical condition. Over time, the heart will simply be unable to keep up with the demands that the body is placing on it, meaning that the hearts pumping chambers may no longer fill completely or properly between heartbeats. The heart muscle may also weaken so that the heart is unable to pump blood efficiently throughout the entire body.

Some risk factors for heart failure include: high blood pressure, heart attack, coronary artery disease, irregular heartbeat, sleep apnea, Diabetes and some Diabetes medications, congenital heart defects, viruses, alcohol abuse, kidney disease and other similar conditions and sleep apnea. Proper treatment of heart failure is essential because the hearts inability to function properly can severely harm the body over time. There are a number of serious complications associated with heart disease including kidney damage and failure, liver damage, heart attack, heart valve problems and stroke. Because many of these complications can be fatal, seeking proper treatment from a licensed physician is absolutely essential.

Signs, Symptoms and Testsof Heart Failure

There are two different types of heart failure, chronic and acute. Chronic heart failure means that the condition is ongoing whereas acute means that the condition has come on quite suddenly. The symptoms for heart failure will differ depending on whether the heart failure is chronic or acute. For example, chronic heart failure often presents with shortness of breath, swelling in the legs, fatigue, weakness, a reduced ability to exercise, a lack of appetite, nausea, difficulty concentrating, swelling in the abdomen and a persistent cough or wheeze.

Acute heart failure, on the other hand, will present with similar symptoms, but they will be much more severe and they will seem to worsen more readily. These symptoms may also include sudden buildup of fluid, sudden shortness of breath, coughing up pink mucus, pain in the chest and heart palpitations.

The doctor will use ejection fraction, echo cardiogram, electrocardiogram, chest x-rays and blood tests to determine the ability of the heart to function properly. They may also pay particular attention to fluid buildup in the body as well as the veins in the neck, the abdomen and the legs.

Treatment, Drugs and Preventionof Heart Failure

Once heart failure has been developed, it is a chronic condition that is not going to go away. Long term management is required in order to help the heart do its job properly going forward. There are two basic schools of treatments, which are medications and medical devices or surgical devices. Examples of medications include Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, Beta blockers, Angiotensin II receptor blockers, Digoxin (Lanoxin), Diuretics and Aldosterone antagonists. Surgical solutions include coronary bypass surgery to bypass blocked arteries and repair or replacement of the heart valve. Some medical devices include an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator or ICD, cardiac resynchronization therapy or CRT which is a pacemaker, or heart pumps, which assist a weakened heart in pumping blood.