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Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)

What is Congestive Heart Failure?

Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a chronic cardiac condition that affects the heart’s ability to pump blood to the rest of the body. Heart failure is a progressive condition, but this term specifically refers to the stage where fluid builds up around the heart, preventing it from pumping blood.

CHF develops when the lower ventricles cannot pump enough blood to the body, resulting in fluid buildup in the lungs, abdomen, liver, and lower body. This is life-threatening, so it’s important to understand the causes and warning signs of congestive heart failure before this happens. CHF is classified into four different stages, from no symptoms to the actual failure of the heart. 

What Causes Congestive Heart Failure?

CHF is typically the result of another condition that affects the cardiovascular system including:

  • Hypertension – when the blood pressure is abnormally high
  • Coronary artery disease – when cholesterol and other fatty substances block or narrow the arteries, restricting blood flow.
  • Valve conditions – valves in the heart that don’t open or close correctly, causing the ventricles to work harder to pump blood.
  • Other conditions – diabetes, thyroid disease, and obesity can all increase the risk factors of heart disease and CHF.

What are the Symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure?

In the early stages of CHF, symptoms are unnoticeable and will not affect the heart’s function. However, left untreated, the condition may progress, resulting in the following first noticeable symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Swelling of the ankles, feet, and legs
  • Weight gain
  • Increased need to urinate

As the condition progresses to the next stage, new symptoms may begin including:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Congested lungs and a cough
  • Wheezing when breathing
  • High blood pressure
  • Shortness of breath

As the condition progresses further into advanced heart failure, the following symptoms may occur, requiring immediate medical attention:

  • Rapid breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Skin appearing blue
  • Fainting (syncope)
  • Heart attack

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Types of Congestive Heart Failure

There is more than one way that chronic heart failure can develop, which can result in different treatment options. The most common type of congestive heart failure is left-sided heart failure, which occurs when your left ventricle doesn’t pump oxygen-rich blood from the lungs out to the rest of your body properly. Left-sided heart failure can be diastolic or systolic heart failure, with the latter caused by a lack of force and the former caused by a stiffening of the heart muscle. 

How is Congestive Heart Failure Treated?

It is important to manage congestive heart failure symptoms as soon as they appear to prevent the risk of future complications. Treatment for the symptoms of heart disease, like abnormal heart rhythms, begins with an accurate diagnosis. In order to diagnose heart failure, Dr. Beshai will use an electrocardiogram (ECG) to get a picture of the heart’s electrical activity. A stress test can also be used to show how the heart responds to exercise.

Dr. Beshai will then perform an echocardiogram or MRI to record and get a picture of the structures of the heart. This will indicate any abnormal tissue causing an irregular heartbeat that may lead to CHF.

The course of treatment for CHF will depend on the symptoms, their severity, and how far along the condition has progressed. Early CHF can usually be managed with the use of medication to regulate the heart’s electrical system. This might include an ACE inhibitor to open the valves, a beta-blocker to lower blood pressure, or diuretics to reduce the body’s fluid content. In more severe cases, a medical device may be inserted in the heart to monitor the electrical activity and deliver a shock to regulate the heartbeat and prevent heart failure. This device is known as a pacemaker.

Schedule a Congestive Heart Failure Treatment Appointment Today

Congestive heart failure is a serious, life-threatening condition, so it is very important to see a doctor as soon as you experience symptoms. Dr. Beshai can discuss your symptoms and medical history to determine which stage you might be in and provide the proper treatment. If you are at risk for CHF, contact our office and schedule your appointment at the Heart Rhythm Institute of Arizona. 

The Heart Institute of Arizona has a wide array of services that come with our premium care. From in-office dianostics and treatable conditions, to hospital based procedures, we’ve got your heart covered.

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