Congestive Heart Failure
Congestive heart failure is a serious condition in which the heart doesn’t pump blood as efficiently as it should. Despite its name, heart failure doesn’t mean that the heart has literally failed or is about to stop working.
Rather, it means that the heart muscle has become less able to contract over time or has a mechanical problem that limits its ability to fill with blood.
As a result, it can’t keep up with the body’s demand, and blood returns to the heart faster than it can be pumped out—it becomes congested, or backed up. This pumping problem means that there is not enough oxygen-rich blood which can be provided to the body’s other organs.
The body tries to compensate in different ways. The heart beats faster to take less time for refilling after it contracts—but over the long run, less blood circulates, and the extra effort can cause heart palpitations.
The heart also enlarges a bit to make space for the blood. The lungs fill with fluid, causing shortness of breath. The kidneys, when they don’t receive enough blood, begin to retain water and sodium, which can lead to kidney failure.
Heart failure is very rare and typically progressive, meaning it generally gets worse, with or without treatment.
The best way to avoid congestive heart failure is to avoid the conditions that contribute to it, or to carefully manage these conditions if they develop.
- Stop smoking— It’s a major factor in the arterial damage that can cause heart failure. Also steer clear of secondhand smoke.
- Eat in heart-healthy ways - The foods that help you are those that contain little saturated fat, sugar or sodium. Think fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, lean protein such as chicken without the skin, and “good” fats such as those found in olive oil, fish and avocadoes. Get practical ideas to eat for heart health and Eat Smart.
- Lose kilograms if you’re overweight - Along with diet, being physically active helps achieve this goal and is also great for your heart.
There’s not a single test to diagnose heart failure. Your doctor will consider your medical history, family history, a physical exam and the results of various tests. These tests can include: