Congestive Heart Failure

By: Dr. Sonia Lal Gupta and Dr. Sameer Gupta

What is Congestive Heart Failure?

The condition in which the heart’s functioning becomes inadequate to meet the body's needs is called Congestive Heart Failure. Sometimes, it is also referred to as “heart failure”, but Congestive Heart Failure specifically refers to the stage when ventricles can’t pump sufficient blood in body and therefore, the blood and other fluids start collecting in other organs such as, lungs, liver, abdomen and lower body. This condition can occur when the heart muscle is too weak and unable to pump effectively (Heart Failure with reduced ejection fraction), heart cannot relax appropriately (Heart Failure with preserved ejection fraction), or when another defect prevents it from circulating blood properly. In severe stages it may prove fatal if the effected person is not rushed to the hospital immediately.

What causes Congestive Heart Failure?

Congestive Heart Failure is not only caused by the heart’s inefficiency, but it can be a result of many other diseases too. The condition may arise from other health conditions which affect cardiovascular system directly. The most common causes are

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Disordered heart valves
  • Reduced kidney functions
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Stiffening of heart muscle
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Hypertension

What are the symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure?

You won’t be able to notice the changes in your health in the early stages of Congestive Heart Failure. But as the condition worsens, changes in the body are visible.

During the initial stage, fatigue, nausea, increased urination, swelling and weight gain can be notices. When the condition worsens, you are caught up with symptoms like cough, shortness of breath even at rest, changes in memory and irregular heartbeats. But if you feel like fainting and your breathing becomes more rapid accompanied with chest pain, breathing problem at rest, inability to lie flat because of shortness of breath then you should immediately seek help.

How is Congestive Heart Failure diagnosed?

When you visit the doctor, you are enquired about your medical history along with questions related to your eating habits, smoking & drinking habits etc. After you are done with reporting your symptoms to your doctor, the cardiologist will perform a physical exam. Then the tests with machines like electrocardiogram and echocardiogram are done to check the abnormalities in heart’s rhythm. Tests like Blood test, MRI, Cardiac catheterization and Stress test are followed next.

What are the treatments available?

The treatment depends upon overall health and condition. So, if the condition is not too bad, you may be prescribed some drugs only. You may require an angiography to evaluate blockages in the heart that could be treated. There are various medicines that can also be used to reduce the pressure on the heart and remove the extra fluid in the body.

What are the preventives?

Always remember, “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure”. You can adopt the following preventives, to stay away from the grip of Congestive Heart Failure:

  • Quit smoking
  • Exercise regularly
  • Have a balanced diet
  • Stay active and keep your weight in control
  • Keep blood pressure and insulin in control
  • Have regular health check-ups

Therefore, with awareness towards the disease and the right preventions, you can always maintain a distance from diseases like Congestive Heart Failure. You need to keep a check on how well your heart muscle is functioning to keep your body in the best of health.

Dr. Sameer Gupta FACC, FSCAI, Diplomate, National Board of Echocardiography (USA)
Dr. Gupta, awarded the status of “Extraordinary Ability and Achievement” by the United States Government in 2013, is a highly skilled cardiologist specializing in Interventional cardiovascular and peripheral procedures. A native of New Delhi, Dr Gupta spent 10 years in USA to accumulate knowledge, experience & awards returning to India to deliver world-class health care to his country and serve its people.
Dr. Sonia Lal Gupta, MBBS, Diplomate of American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology
Sonia Lal Gupta MD is a highly qualified Board Certified Neurologist. After completing her MBBS from Government Medical College Patiala, she pursued Neurology at New York Medical College. She graduated in 2011 becoming one of the youngest neurologists in the world at the age of 27.

Image: This 28 year old woman presented with congestive heart failure secondary to her chronic hypertension, or high blood pressure. The enlarged cardiac silhouette on this AP x-ray is due to congestive heart failure due to the effects of chronic high blood pressure on the left ventricle. The heart then becomes enlarged, and fluid accumulates in the lungs known as pulmonary congestion. Source/Author: Public Health Image Library (PHIL), Image 6241 / CDC/ Dr. Thomas Hooten. Date: 1978. Access the original Image information here: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Congestive_heart_failure_x-ray.png