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Congestive heart failure: The Basics

 

What is congestive heart failure? This condition occurs when your heart is not strong enough to send enough blood throughout your body. The result is that your organs 

do not get enough oxygen and other nutrients that are necessary to maintain your life.

If you have congestive heart failure you can't exert yourself very strenuously without becoming overly tired and short of breath. As the blood flows out of the heart, it slows down. This, in turn, causes the returning blood to the heart to "back up" in the veins, which produces congestion in the tissues. 

The visible result on your body: swelling. It appears most commonly in the legs and ankles, but it definitely isn't limited to those body parts. Swelling because of congestive heart failure can occur anywhere throughout your system.

Some symptoms of congestive heart failure differ depending on the side of the hear affected. For the left side fatigue and shortness of breath for even mild exertion. A hacking cough and shortness of breath while sleeping are called orthopnea and are a symptom. A very serious symptom is pulmonary edema in which fluids accumulate in the lungs. Right side congestive heart failure is indicated primarily by swelling especially in the feet, ankles, legs and abdomen since the veins and tissues fill up with too much fluid. If you are experiencing constant tiredness and lose your appetite you may have  right-side symptoms of congestive heart failure.

Another serious side effect of this heart condition is that fluid at times collects in the lungs. This causes problems in breathing. That's why many people suffering with congestive heart failure have problems breathing. It's especially difficult to breathe when they're lying down. Heart failure adversely affects the kidneys' ability to excrete sodium and water as well. This is another reason why swelling is so evident with this problem.

There could be any number of causes for this problem. In some people it's caused by coronary artery disease, in others it's caused by the healing process of a past heart attack. As the heart heals, scar tissue naturally forms. This scar tissue interferes with the heart muscle's normal functioning. High blood pressure may prompt congestive heart failure as may heart valve disease.

Conventional medicine has several drugs that treat congestive heart failure. They include ACE inhibitors and vasodilators. Both of these expand the blood vessels to help the blood flow through the narrowed openings faster as well as decrease the resistance of the flow. This helps the heart to work easier and more efficiently.

Another prescription medication that's used is a beta blocker. This drug improves the pumping action of the lower left chamber of the heart. Digitalis also increases heart's ability to pump stronger. Sometimes diuretics are also prescribed. This helps the body to get rid of the excess salt and water it's been retaining.

If at all possible, physicians try to treat the root cause of the heart failure. If, for example, the cause is high blood pressure, the symptoms of congestive heart failure should be lessened if the blood pressure were lowered.


Note: Some statements in this article may not be approved by the FDA. This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as professional medical advice.

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Greg Cryns
The Compleat Mother Magazine
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