Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a condition in which the heart is unable to pump or relax properly. In this case, “failure” doesn’t mean the heart has stopped; it means the heart is failing to operate effectively. In this condition, blood that should travel throughout the body instead “backs up” in the system, causing fluid to accumulate in the lungs, liver, abdomen, legs, and feet.
One of the early symptoms of CHF is difficulty breathing during any kind of exertion, such as walking. As CHF progresses, its symptoms become more noticeable and more uncomfortable. In addition to a swelling of the legs, ankles, or feet, CHF can cause fatigue, weight gain, an increased need to urinate, and severe shortness of breath.
If left untreated, CHF may suddenly worsen and become life-threatening, requiring emergency treatment.
Congestive heart failure is closely linked to other cardiovascular issues and is often a result of hypertension, coronary artery disease, or heart valve issues (whether due to a defect or infection). Other medical conditions, such as diabetes, obesity, and thyroid disease, can also increase the risk of developing CHF.
People who are at risk of developing a cardiovascular condition are also at risk of heart failure if their symptoms are not treated. A family history of heart issues often plays a role, as do various lifestyle factors.
When diagnosed early, CHF can be managed and treated, so it’s important to tell your doctor about your family history and any other risk factors that could affect you.
In most cases, congestive heart failure causes noticeable symptoms. If you believe you might be at risk of this condition, it’s important to visit your cardiologist for a diagnosis. At Manhattan Cardiovascular Associates, we use a range of state-of-the-art diagnostics to evaluate your heart health, including electrocardiograms, echocardiograms, stress tests, blood tests, and MRIs. These diagnostics give us the information we need to develop the best possible treatment plan for your situation.
Several types of medication can improve CHF, including angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), beta-blockers, and diuretics. In more severe cases of CHF, an implanted device or surgical procedure may be required to help improve the heart’s ability to pump.
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