Dr. Nikhil Mahajan
Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a chronic progressive condition that affects the pumping power of your heart muscles. While often referred to simply as “heart failure,” CHF specifically refers to the stage in which fluid builds up in and around the heart muscles and causes it to pump inefficiently.
You have four heart chambers. The upper half of your heart has two atria, and the lower half of your heart has two ventricles. The ventricles pump blood to your body’s organs and tissues, and the atria receive blood from your body as it circulates back from the rest of your body.
CHF develops when your ventricles can’t pump enough blood volume to the body. Eventually, blood and other fluids can back up inside your:lungs, abdomen, liver and lower body. CHF can be life-threatening. If you suspect you or someone near you has CHF, seek immediate medical treatment.
CHF may result from other health conditions that directly affect your cardiovascular system. This is why it’s important to get annual checkups to lower your risk for heart health problems, including high blood pressure (hypertension), coronary artery disease, and valve conditions.While heart-related diseases can lead to CHF, there are other seemingly unrelated conditions that may increase your risk, too. These include diabetes, thyroid disease, and obesity. Severe infections and allergic reactions may also sometimes contribute to CHF.
In the early stages of CHF, you most likely won’t notice any changes in your health. If your condition progresses, you’ll experience gradual changes in your body.Symptoms include fatigue, swelling in ankles, feet and legs,weight gain and increased urination. Chest pain that radiates through the upper body can also be a sign of a heart attack. If you experience this or any other symptoms that may point to a severe heart condition, seek immediate medical attention.
Heart failure is a chronic disease needing lifelong management. However, with treatment, signs and symptoms of heart failure can improve, and the heart sometimes becomes stronger. Treatment may help you live longer and reduce your chance of dying suddenly.
Doctors sometimes can correct heart failure by treating the underlying cause. For example, repairing a heart valve or controlling a fast heart rhythm may reverse heart failure. But for most people, the treatment of heart failure involves a balance of the right medications and, in some cases, use of devices that help the heart beat and contract properly. 2 devices here need a special mention.
Implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs). An ICD is a device similar to a pacemaker. The ICD monitors the heart rhythm. If the heart starts beating at a dangerous rhythm, or if your heart stops, the ICD tries to pace your heart or shock it back into normal rhythm.
Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT), or biventricular pacing. A biventricular pacemaker sends timed electrical impulses to both of the heart’s lower chambers (the left and right ventricles) so that they pump in a more efficient, coordinated manner. Your condition may improve with medication or surgery. Your outlook depends on how advanced your CHF is and whether you have other health conditions to treat, like diabetes or high blood pressure. The earlier your condition is diagnosed, the better your outlook. Talk to your doctor about the best treatment plan for you.
(The author is a Cardiologist Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Narayana Superspeciality Hospital).
Dr. Nikhil Mahajan