Heart Failure - Symptoms, Risk factors and Treatment

Heart Failure is a condition when your heart is unable to pump blood efficiently enough to meet the oxygen requirements of your body. Heart Failure does not mean that your heart has “failed” or stopped working. It simply means a reduction in the efficiency of the pumping capacity of your heart.


When the heart can not pump blood properly, fluid may start to build up in different parts of your body like arms, legs, lungs, ankles, or other parts of your body, making them congested. It refers to congestive heart failure (CCF) that is generally caused by fluid retention by your kidneys as a response to heart failure.



Understanding the normal function of the heart


Your heart has four chambers, and two sides. The left side and the right side. The right side of the heart pumps blood to your lungs to receive oxygen, while the left side of your heart receives that blood from the lungs and pumps it to the whole body. 


The heart does all this work in two phases. First, the chambers of the heart relax to fill the blood known as diastole. Then, the heart contracts to eject the blood-filled in the chambers, a phase is known as systole.


Now that we have discussed the normal function of the heart, we can discuss the types of heart failure.


Types of Heart Failure


Heart Failure can be classified into different types as per the location or the function that is compromised or affected.


According to location, it can be classified into left-sided heart failure or right-sided heart failure. According to functional compromise, it can be classified into diastolic heart failure or systolic heart failure.


Left-sided heart failure


This type of heart failure occurs when the left side of your heart can not pump blood with enough efficiency to your body. It results in blood building up back in your lungs.


Right-sided heart failure


This type of heart failure occurs when the right side of your heart can not pump blood properly to your lungs. It is usually due to left-sided heart failure and pulmonary diseases. This type causes fluid to build up in your veins that bring blood to the right side of your heart.


Diastolic heart failure


This type of heart failure happens when your heart chambers can not relax properly during diastole to fill blood adequately.


Systolic heart failure


This type of heart failure occurs when your heart chambers do not contract with enough force to eject the blood-filled in them.


Causes Of Heart Failure:


There can be many causes of heart failure. Here are some of them:

Coronary Artery Disease (CAD): This includes myocardial infarction (heart attack) and is the most common cause of heart failure. It occurs when the arteries supplying oxygen to your heart (coronary arteries) are blocked or narrowed. It eventually results in ineffective functioning of the heart.


Cardiomyopathy: It is a condition in which your heart muscles are damaged resulting in improper functioning of the heart. It could occur due to infections, drugs, and other diseases.


Congenital Heart Diseases: This refers to structural defects present in the heart at the time of birth. 


Heart Valve defects: Your heart has four valves ( mitral, tricuspid, pulmonary, and aortic) that ensure blood flow in a proper direction. If due to any reason, the valves do not function properly, this may result in heart failure.


  • Other Causes

  • Conditions like 

  • hypertension

  • diabetes

  • infections

  • hypothyroidism

  • hyperthyroidism

  • kidney failure

  • or hemochromatosis ( too much iron in the blood) can cause heart failure. 


Symptoms of Heart Failure:


  • Symptoms of heart failure may include:

  • Breathless on exertion

  • Fatigue

  • Weakness

  • Coughing

  • Breathless on lying down

  • Weight gain

  • Swollen ankles, feet, or legs

  • Loss of appetite

  • Impaired memory

  • Frequent urination at night


Diagnosis of heart failure

After taking a history and doing a physical examination, your doctor might order these tests to reach a diagnosis of heart failure:


ECG (Electrocardiogram) -This is done to check the rhythm of your heart.


Chest X-Ray: This is done to check for any problem in your heart or lungs.


Echocardiogram: This test uses sound waves to take images of your heart that reveal information about any problem in the chambers, valves, or any other part of your heart. Your doctor will see ejection fraction to diagnose heart failure. Ejection Fraction is the amount of blood that your left ventricle pumps out during each contraction.


Blood tests: Your doctor may order blood tests like urea, creatinine, BNP (Brain Natriuretic Peptide), etc. to help diagnose heart failure.


Treatment and management of Heart Failure


After a diagnosis has been established, your doctor will give you medications and may advise the following to manage the disease:


Complete bed rest: Your doctor may advise you complete rest as Heart Failure symptoms worsen on exertion.


Reduction of Salt in diet: 

Salt tends to hold water with it in the body, thus, increasing the fluid load on the heart, making it work even harder. Therefore, reducing salt intake in your diet can help lower the stress on your heart.


Fluid Restriction: As you drink more fluids, the total fluid volume in your body increases, making it harder for your already compromised heart to pump more. Lowering fluid intake as per the doctor’s advice can help in managing heart failure symptoms. 

Your doctor may also advise surgery to treat the underlying defect in your heart that causes heart failure. 


Conclusion

Heart Failure is a condition in which your heart is unable to pump blood efficiently. It can be managed with medications and by making appropriate lifestyle changes. You must notice yourself for cough and breathlessness. If any symptom of heart failure occurs, you should visit the healthcare provider as soon as possible. 


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