condition where the heart cannot pump
to meet the demands of the body's organ
s. This can be caused by narrowed arteries
to the heart, scar tissue
from past heart attack
s that prevent the heart from working properly, high blood pressure
, heart valve disease
such as a mitral valve prolapse
, heart disease, heart defect
s, and infection
of the heart of vavles.
Congestive heart failure should not be confused with a heart attack, the heart will continue to operate, however it will not be as efficient and the rest of the body may suffer problems due to lack of adequate blood flow. In addition, a backup of blood into the heart can occur which can lead to swelling, most commonly in the lower limbs, as well as fluid collection in the lungs that interfere with normal breathing.
The most common symptoms of congestive heart failure are difficulty breathing and swelling in the legs or ankles. Treatment consists mainly of rest and proper diet, limited exercize, and medications such as beta blockers and enzyme inhibitors. Enzyme inhibitors cause blood vessels to expand which decreases the resistance to the heart, while beta blockers can help the heart to beat more efficiently. In many cases, congestive heart failure is caused by an underlying medical condition such as a problem with the heart valves, and treatment will focus on fixing the underlying cause.
For most cases, congestive heart failure can be treated and a relatively normal life can be lived (with decreased stress). However, in some cases, continued congestive heart failure can cause damage to the heart which cannot be repaired, and a heart transplant is the only option.
For more information on living with heart failure, please see the American Heart Association's site on living with heart failure at http://www.americanheart.org/chf/.