Heart failure, or congestive heart failure, is a chronic condition that indicates the inability of one’s heart to sufficiently fill with blood or distribute adequate amounts of blood to the entire body.
Heart failure usually occurs in individuals with advancing age. However, anyone can develop the problem, which is a long-term, severe chronic condition. Still, people can live an active and full life by receiving the right medical diagnose and treatment, and managing daily lifestyle.
The majority of people who suffer from heart failure usually have another heart condition in the initial stage. Common conditions resulting in heart failure are high blood pressure, coronary artery problems, and heart attack.
If a person is diagnosed with any of these conditions, the problem should be managed carefully to avoid the onset of heart failure. Patients should follow the instructions of healthcare providers and make necessary changes to their diet, lifestyle, and physical activities.
With congestive heart failure, the heart does not pump blood in the body as it normally should. While it can’t be cured, there are treatments available to alleviate symptoms and provide relief.
While there are a host of contributing factors that, in combination, may result in this condition, you can develop congestive heart failure if you have even just one.
The following conditions could increase your risk of congestive heart failure:
- Amyloidosis: Amyloidosis is a serious condition caused by the accumulation of proteins, known as amyloids, in the body. An amyloid is an abnormal protein usually produced by bone marrow, but is deposited in tissue or organs. It is frequently known to affect the heart, kidneys, liver, digestive system, and nervous system. In some cases of severe amyloidosis, complete organ failure may occur in patients.
- Overactive thyroid: Overactive thyroid, also called hyperthyroidism, is a condition where your thyroid gland produces more thyroid hormone than is required. The thyroid gland plays a crucial role in metabolism and in controlling heartbeat and how you burn calories. It leads to symptoms such as excessive tiredness, sweating, restlessness, irregular heartbeats, and weight loss, among others. Thus, hyperthyroidism increases the incidence of heart disease, such as congestive heart failure, through increased heart rate and irregular heartbeats.
- Sarcoidosis: Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease that affects multiple organs in the body, but mainly the lungs and lymph glands. Symptoms of this disease are abnormal or missed heart beats (arrhythmia), inflammation of the covering of the heart, and heart failure.
- Severe anemia: If you suffer from anemia, your blood does not have enough red blood cells (RBCs). RBCs are responsible for carrying oxygen to various parts of the body, so a lack of these implies a lack of oxygen in the body. Brittle nails, light-headedness upon physical activity or standing, pale skin color, and shortness of breath after mild physical activity indicate severe anemia. The main symptoms of severe anemia related to the development of congestive heart failure are heart murmurs (which are the swishing sounds during the heart beat cycle), an increased/rapid heart rate (where the heart beats faster than usual), and heart attacks (which happens when the blood flow to heart muscles ceases, causing muscle death).
- Excessive iron in the body: Too much iron in the body is known as hemochromatosis. The symptoms for it are tiredness, abdominal pain, joint pain, dark-colored skin, weight loss, loss of hair, and a decreased libido. In this disease, excess iron builds up in vital organs, such as the heart, joints, pancreas, or pituitary glands. If not treated in time, it could lead to further complications, such as heart failure or heart disease.
- Underactive thyroid: Underactive thyroid is also known as hypothyroidism. As opposed to hyperthyroidism, in this condition, the body does not make enough quantities of the thyroid hormone. This leads to hard stools, an increased sensitivity to cold, weakness, and weight gain, among other symptoms. Untreated hypothyroidism poses a high risk of increased cholesterol levels and, thus, heart failure.
- High blood pressure (HBP): Blood pressure higher than 140/90 is a serious problem, as it can lead to damaged arteries due to the increased pressure in blood flow. HBP can damage the cells in the lining of the arteries, causing many problems, such as chest pain (angina), heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, blocked arteries, or heart failure.
- Diabetes: Diabetes is a disease that leads to excessive sugar in the blood, or high blood glucose. If you have diabetes, you are at a higher risk of developing heart failure. If your fasting blood sugar is above 126 mg/dl, your random blood sugar level is above 200 mg/dl, or your HbA1c is above 6.5 mg/dl, you likely have diabetes and should take care.
- Metabolic syndrome: Metabolic syndrome doubles the risk for heart disease. It is a group of abnormalities associated with the development of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. You are considered to have metabolic syndrome if you have any three of the following:
- Fasting blood sugar level above 110 mg/dl
- HDL/ good cholesterol below 50 mg/dl
- Triglycerides above 150 mg/dl
- Blood pressure more than 130/85
- Your waist measures more than 35 inches
- High cholesterol: Cholesterol is a type of fat in the blood. High levels of cholesterol can build up in your arteries and cause heart and blood flow problems. The buildup can narrow arteries, which hampers blood flow through them and can cause heart attacks and strokes. There are different types of cholesterol levels, and low density Lipoprotein (LDL) is the bad cholesterol. LDL above 190 mg/dl indicates you are at a higher risk of developing heart disease and heart failure. Total cholesterol above 200 mg/dl indicates a high risk as well.
- Sleep apnea: If you snore loudly, you might want to be checked for sleep apnea, as one of the symptoms of this condition is loud snoring. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when your throat tissues relax and block the air passage to your lungs. Sleep apnea often leads to unrestful sleep in its patients, and thus could cause high blood pressure and increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and heart failure.
- Overweight/obesity: Abody mass index (BMI) above 25 is considered overweight, and above 30, obese.
- Loss of sleep: Lack of sleep releases cortisol, a hormone that increases weight and thus the chances for heart disease.
Stages of Congestive Heart Failure
According to the detailed analysis on heart failure, experts have established key stages for both left and right types of congestive heart failure:
Stage A Type of Heart Failure
People with a family history of hypertension, heart problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, anemia, thyroid problems, and others are at great risk for Stage A type of heart failure.
Stage B: Diagnosing Heart Failure
In this case, patients may or may not experience any symptoms related to heart failure, but still undergo diagnosing of the problem. Cardiologists and other doctors will discuss common medications, like beta-blockers or ACE inhibitors. In addition, experts may recommend close monitoring of hypertension or blood pressure problems.
Stage C: Cardiac Dysfunction
In the third stage, Stage C, you will experience cardiac dysfunction as a major symptom. Other common symptoms include tiredness during simple activities, like bending over or walking, shortness of breath, and complete fatigue. At this stage, one should make sure to exercise and maintain a proper diet plan that avoids alcohol consumption.
Stage D: Symptoms Present After Therapy and Treatment
Patients of Stage D type of heart failure still experience symptoms even though they have undergone treatment procedures and therapy. Exercise, diet, and blood pressure continue to be monitored during the fourth stage. In addition, doctors will likely prescribe to patients necessary medications according to the person and the extent of the heart failure. This stage also involves various surgical operations based on the severity of the problem, including:
- Placement of a conventional Pacemaker
- Placement of a special ventricular device in the form of Biventricular Pacemakers to maintain heartbeat in patients suffering from advanced heart failure
- Heart transplantation process
Experts’ Opinion on Heart Failure Risks
Cardiologists and other experienced professionals have said that only one factor is required to cause congestive heart failure. However, a combination of factors also increases the risk, including:
- High blood pressure: A person’s heart experiences great difficulty from high blood pressure.
- Coronary artery problem: Narrowing of arteries may limit the amount of blood, rich in oxygen, to the heart, resulting in weakened heart muscles and coronary artery problems.
- Heart attack: A heart attack results in damage to the heart muscles, causing its failure to properly pump blood.
- Diabetes: Diabetic patients are at a relatively high risk of high blood pressure problems and diseases related to coronary arteries.
- Medications and conditions: Certain medications may result in heart failure or other heart-related problems. These include anesthesia medicines, anti-inflammatory drugs of non-steroidal forms, anti-arrhythmic medicines, cancer medicines, and high blood pressure medicines.
In addition, congestive heart failure may take place because of psychiatric conditions, lung conditions, inflammatory conditions, urological conditions, infections, inflammatory conditions, and various over-the-counter medications. Moreover, certain diabetic drugs, like rosiglitazone and pioglitazone, may increase the risk of heart failure in some people.
However, you should never stop taking drugs on your own; rather, consult your doctor about whether you require any change or not.
- Sleep apnea: Inability to inhale or exhale properly while sleeping during the night may result in low levels of oxygen in the blood, thereby increasing the risk of irregular heart rhythms. This problem also causes weakening of the heart.
- Congenital heart defects: Some people develop heart failure because of structural heart defects received at birth.
- Valvular heart problems: People suffering from valvular heart disease are at a high risk for heart failure.
- Irregular heartbeat: Irregular heartbeat refers to abnormal rhythms of the heart, which may become severe if they occur at a fast rate and on a frequent basis. These rhythms result in the weakening of the heart muscles and thus heart failure.
- Obesity: Obese and overweight people are at a higher risk of developing heart failure.
Congestive heart failure often occurs in people with advancing age. Because of this, it should be everyone’s prime responsibility to switch to a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Simply put, we should avoid diets that cause diabetes, obesity, and other health issues, as these open the way for congestive heart disease.