Heart failure occurs when blood moves through the heart and body at an usually slow rate, which increases pressure in the heart. Due to this, the heart is unable to pump enough oxygen throughout the body for it to work correctly. The heart can respond to this by stretching to hold more blood or by becoming stiff and thickened. Both these options help keep blood moving, but will eventually cause the walls of the heart to weaken and become unable to pump enough blood efficiently.
This will affect other areas of the body as well, such as the kidneys, which may cause the body to retain fluid and salt. If this fluid buildup reaches body parts such as the arms, legs, ankles, or feet; or organs such as the lungs, the body becomes congested. That is why this condition is referred to as congestive heart failure.
Types Of Heart Failure
Systolic dysfunction happens when the heart muscle doesn’t contract with enough force, so there is less oxygen-rich blood that is being pumped throughout the body.
Diastolic dysfunction happens when the heart contracts normally, but the ventricles aren’t able to relax properly, which causes less blood flow to the heart when it pumps.
Left-sided heart failure happens when fluid backs up in the lungs, which causes shortness of breath. This type of heart failure affects the left ventricle.
Right-sided heart failure happens when fluid backs up into the abdomen, legs, and feet, which causes swelling. This type of heart failure affects the right ventricle.
During an echocardiogram, a calculation called an ejection fraction (EF) will be done to measure how well your heart pumps with each heartbeat. This will help to determine whether you are experiencing systolic or diastolic dysfunction, so your doctor can determine an adequate treatment plan.
Risk Factors For Heart Failure
There are several health conditions, along with your lifestyle, age, and family history that can increase your risk for heart disease and heart failure. There are multiple types of heart disease which can increase your risk of heart failure. Almost half of all Americans have at least one of the three main risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking.
Although some risk factors cannot be controlled, it’s important to lower your risk by monitoring the factors you can control, such as smoking, physical activity, poor diet, and overconsumption of alcohol. Health conditions that can also be monitored include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity.
Causes Of Heart Failure
Heart failure typically develops after other conditions have damaged or weakened the heart, or if the heart becomes too stiff. People who have experienced heart attacks, or myocardial infarctions, are at greater risk of developing heart failure, as they create scarred areas in the heart that can no longer work properly.
Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), the most common type of heart disease, is also a potential cause of heart failure. This is a disease that affects the coronary arteries which supply blood and oxygen to the heart, causing decreased blood flow through the heart valves. Since the arteries become narrowed, the heart only receives oxygen-poor blood.
Cardiomyopathy, which is damage to the heart muscle from causes other than arterial or blood flow issues (such as from infections or alcohol/drug abuse) is another cause of heart failure. Conditions that overwork the heart, such as high blood pressure, valve disease, thyroid disease, kidney disease, diabetes, arrhythmias, or congenital heart defects can all cause heart failure. The risk increases if several conditions are present at once.
Heart failure can also occur suddenly, which is referred to as acute heart failure. Causes of this type of heart failure include allergic reactions, any illness that affects the whole body, blood clots in the lungs, severe infections, use of certain medications, and viruses that attack the heart muscle.
Symptoms Of Heart Failure
Each person experiences symptoms of heart failure differently, and some may not even experience symptoms at all. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and can occur constantly or sporadically. The symptoms include congested lungs, which is where fluid buildup in the lungs can cause shortness of breath during exercise or difficulty breathing while resting. Lung congestion can also cause a dry, hacking cough or wheezing.
Fluid and water retention is another symptom, where less blood flow to your kidneys causes them to retain more fluid, which results in swollen ankles, legs, or abdomen. This can cause weight gain or increased urination, as well as a loss of appetite or nausea due to bloating in your stomach. Other symptoms include chest pain, dizziness, fatigue, and weakness, as well as a rapid or irregular heartbeat.
Treatment For Heart Failure
There are many forms of medication that can ease symptoms of heart failure and prevent it from progressing further. Common medicines are ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, blood vessel dilators, calcium channel blockers, heart pump medications, and selective sinus node inhibitors. Talk to your doctor about what medication may be right for you.
You may also be recommended to join a program called cardiac rehabilitation. This is an important program for anyone recovering from a heart attack, heart failure, or other heart issues requiring surgery or medical care. This supervised program includes physical activity that promotes heart health, education about a healthy lifestyle, and counseling to help relieve stress and improve mental health.
How CVG Can Help
CVG offers multiple services that can discover risk factors for heart failure and signs of heart disease. At CVG, we perform stress tests that will observe blood flow and test for various forms of heart disease. There are three types of stress tests that we perform:
A treadmill test is a test in which you will walk on a treadmill that gets faster and steeper every 3 minutes. This will stress your heart so that our nurse or doctor can determine your heart rate and blood pressure.
An echo test is performed before and after your treadmill test to determine how well your heart pumps blood.
A nuclear stress test is a treadmill test that is prefaced by an injection of medicine that shows the flow of blood to your heart.
We also offer cardiac catheterization to diagnose and treat several heart issues. If any of these tests determine a problem, we offer treatment solutions such as atrial fibrillation testing and catheter ablation. Learn more about our services here, or schedule an appointment to talk to our doctors.