Congestive heart failure affects nearly 5 million Americans, yet many do not understand what congestive heart failure exactly is or how to treat it. To combat that unintended ignorance, we’ve put together your complete congestive heart failure 101 guide.
Congestive heart failure (CHF), simply put, occurs when the heart is not able to pump out enough blood. When the heart is receiving enough blood but cannot pump it out adequately, it literally becomes congested with blood, which backs up behind the heart. This can quickly become fatal, both because of lack of blood flow to the body and because of the dangers of this backup itself.
There are different multiple types of CHF. The heart is made up of two pumps, one on the left side and one on the right, and either one of the pumps can fail independently of one another. When the left side fails, blood begins to back up into the lungs because the lungs are located behind the left side of the heart. This causes fluid in the lungs and shortness of breath. When the right side fails, blood backs up into the blood veins and capillaries throughout the body and leaks out into surrounding tissue. This causes swelling predominantly in the lower body.
Many things can cause CHF, with the most two most well-known factors being a congenital disposition toward heart failure, in which the risk of CHF is inherited, and high blood pressure, which forces the heart to work harder than it should have to. There are many other potential causes including disease of the heart valves, leaky valves, an overactive thyroid, unusual heart rhythms, anemia, or even an infection of the heart valves.
The three most common factors of heart disease include:
Coronary Artery Disease – A disease in the arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the heart, causing decreased blood flow to the heart muscle.
Previous Heart Attack – Heart attacks cause severe damage to the heart muscle, which results in scarring that causes effected areas function poorly or not at all.
Cardiomyopathy – Infections, drug use, alcohol abuse, and other poor health choices can result in serious damage to the heart muscle.
Poor lifestyle patterns can also greatly increase the risk of CHF, including but not limited to obesity, bad cholesterol levels, smoking, drinking, and a lack of regular exercise.