Congestive heart failure is a life-threatening cardiac condition that can impair a person’s quality of life. Fortunately, however, congestive heart failure can be reversed, and with proper treatment, patients can maintain a positive outlook.
What is congestive heart failure, what causes this type of heart disease, and how can you treat it? Carda is here to discuss this today, as well as different treatment options and how to prevent congestive heart failure. Read on to support your heart health and overall well-being.
Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a heart disease where your heart cannot pump enough blood to the rest of the body to meet your organ and tissue needs. A person with congestive heart failure has a weakened heart, such that it either cannot fill with enough blood in between heartbeats or it cannot contract strongly enough to pump out enough blood effectively.
Sometimes, the heart can still compensate for its weakness, and while blood circulation is poor, a person only experiences mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. However, CHF can progress, and in more severe cases, the heart becomes so weak that a person requires immediate medical care for their disease symptoms. Without medical attention, CHF can eventually lead to organ failure and death.
Symptoms of heart failure include shortness of breath, chest pain, abnormal heart rhythms, and swelling in the hands, feet, or ankles due to fluid retention. Your doctor can diagnose congestive heart failure during a physical exam and may use tests such as an electrocardiogram, an echocardiogram, or a chest X-ray to aid in their diagnosis.
Many different factors can cause congestive heart failure. A few of them include coronary artery disease, other heart-related conditions, or lifestyle choices.
The leading cause of congestive heart failure is coronary artery disease (CAD). The coronary arteries are the main blood vessels that give your heart blood. However, buildups of fat and other substances can cause the artery walls to narrow.
Coronary artery disease is a heart condition that happens when the coronary arteries become so narrow they experience one or more blockages, which greatly diminishes the amount of blood, oxygen, and nutrients that travel to your heart.
In addition to coronary artery disease, other heart-related conditions can also lead to congestive heart failure. Some of these conditions include a heart attack, heart inflammation (myocarditis), heart valve disease, high blood pressure (hypertension), or diabetes.
A heart attack occurs when a blockage in one of the coronary arteries cuts off blood flow to the heart muscle. This medical emergency can damage the heart muscle and weaken its ability to pump out enough blood to the body.
Hypertension occurs when there is too big a force pushing against the artery walls. With high blood pressure, the heart must work harder to supply adequate blood flow.
Heart valve disease is a cardiac condition where the valves that regulate blood flow to and from your heart cannot close properly. A valve dysfunction diminishes the amount of blood flow that circulates to the rest of the body.
Certain lifestyle choices, such as smoking, little to no physical activity, excess alcohol consumption, repeated exposure to a stressful environment, or an unhealthy diet, are also risk factors that can contribute to a congestive heart failure diagnosis.
Congestive heart failure is a chronic condition, which means that it is long-term and can progressively worsen over time. Some medications and treatments can help reverse many of the underlying causes of heart failure.
With different treatment methods, CHF can be well-managed, and a person can experience a good outlook.
Fortunately, there are several different options for treatment when it comes to congestive heart failure. Addressing underlying causes, taking medication, engaging in heart-healthy lifestyle changes, and participating in cardiac rehab are all ways to treat congestive heart failure.
Often, a cardiologist will assign a person to follow several, or all, of these treatment options to treat their congestive heart failure. Read on to learn about each of them below.
Underlying causes that can contribute to CHF include:
Addressing underlying causes, meaning any diseases or conditions that have contributed to a congestive heart failure diagnosis, is often at the core of treatment for congestive heart failure. If a doctor can help you treat your congestive heart failure by targeting these health conditions, your disease progression may slow tremendously or even stop.
There are four different classes of medication that can help treat congestive heart failure. These classes include beta-blockers, renin-angiotensin blockers, diuretics, and sodium-glucose cotransporter-2 (SGLT2) inhibitors.
Beta-blockers are medications that aim to help lower your blood pressure. They block the hormone epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, which allows your heart rate to slow down and calms down the force of your heartbeat to diminish pounding.
Beta-blockers can help prevent symptoms of congestive heart failure and can also reduce hospital readmissions as well as mortality rates for people who live with congestive heart failure.
Renin-angiotensin blockers can include ACE inhibitor medications and angiotensin II blockers, or ARBs. Angiotensin is an enzyme in your body that can narrow blood vessel walls, which makes the heart work harder to pump enough blood.
ACE inhibitors and ARBs work similarly to block angiotensin from acting, which can help lower your blood pressure and can also help prevent further heart muscle damage.
The diuretic medication that can help address symptoms of congestive heart failure is spironolactone. Also known as Aldactone, this medication blocks the hormone aldosterone, which results in better regulation of sodium and water levels in the body. You will likely find that with these water pills, you have to urinate a lot more frequently as your body tries to eliminate excess sodium and water levels.
Sodium Glucose Cotransporter 2s
Finally, sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 medications (SGLT-2s) can help lower blood pressure levels to address diabetes. When given for congestive heart failure, SGLT-2s can help reduce instances of hospitalization and mortality.
Surgical procedures that repair or replace damaged or dysfunctional areas of the heart muscle, or sometimes even replace the heart muscle, are ways to treat congestive heart failure.
For example, a heart valve surgery will repair or replace a dysfunctional heart valve to help improve blood flow and increase the amount of blood the heart pumps to the rest of the body. Similarly, a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) surgery places an implantable device that increases heart function by helping the left ventricle of your heart pump blood.
A coronary angioplasty and stent procedure is also a common procedure that cardiology surgeons can perform to help address an underlying cause for congestive heart failure. The procedure involves using a small, thin catheter to go through a narrowed or blocked coronary artery.
Once the catheter travels through the artery to the area that restricts blood flow, the surgeon will inflate a balloon to diminish the plaque build-ups in that spot on the artery wall, opening up the blockage site. Sometimes, the surgeon implants a stent in that area to make sure that the artery stays open after the procedure.
Another surgical option to treat congestive heart failure is to get a new heart altogether from a heart transplant surgery. The heart muscle will usually come from another person who has donated their body to science post-death.
Lifestyle changes that reflect a healthy heart are a great way to help treat congestive heart failure and are usually easy to implement at home. Eating a heart-healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, lean meats, and low-fat dairy options can enhance your heart health, as can limiting refined or processed foods.
Additionally, engaging in physical exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and practicing stress management techniques are all lifestyle changes you can practice to help target your congestive heart failure.
Cardiac rehabilitation is an outpatient program that uses education and safely monitored exercise to promote a heart-healthy lifestyle that strengthens your heart and helps you cope with a heart condition.
Rehab is a great way to experience mentorship and guidance in your whole treatment plan for congestive heart failure. You can work with a healthcare team to help manage your medication and lifestyle changes, as well as an exercise physiologist to help monitor your physical activity routine.
With fully virtual cardiac rehab like the program Carda offers, you will have the same provider every time to help make your experience feel personal and charismatic. You can sign up online easily just by filling out our simple form and inputting a referral from your healthcare provider. Once you sign up, we’ll mail you all the at-home equipment you need to get started in your cardiac wellness journey.
The primary way to prevent congestive heart failure is to regularly follow up with your doctor and to closely stick to the treatment plan they have for any other heart-related condition you have or are at risk for. Additionally, diligently maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle through diet, exercise, and stress management techniques is a very important way to prevent congestive heart failure.
Congestive heart failure is a serious medical condition that can be life-threatening if not well-managed. With CHF, a patient's heart begins to fail because it has weakened so much that it cannot adequately pump out enough blood to the rest of the body.
Usually, an underlying heart-related condition or disease, including coronary artery disease, any cardiomyopathy, a prior heart attack, myocarditis, or hypertension, will cause congestive heart failure symptoms. Additionally, lifestyle choices that do not reflect a heart-healthy life can lead to congestive heart failure.
Fortunately, with the proper treatment plan, congestive heart failure can start to reverse or improve. If you are suffering from congestive heart failure, make sure you follow up with your healthcare provider frequently and stick to the plan they came up with for your cardiac wellness journey.
Heart Failure Surgery: Options, Outlook & Risks | Cleveland Clinic
Sodium-Glucose Cotransporter-2 (SGLT-2) Inhibitors for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention | NIH