Defining CHF

It is defined as inability of the heart to either 1. Contract with enough force to eject an appropriate amount of blood to the body or 2. Relax appropriately to allow the myocardium to fill properly and eject an appropriate amount of blood to the body. When this happens blood backs up in the lungs or fluid retention occurs causing swelling of the legs and weight gain. Approximately five million Americans suffer from congestive heart failure and 500,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.

Causes and Diagnosis

Coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, heart valve disorders, abnormal heartbeats, and increased alcohol intake can all cause CHF. It is characterized by shortness of breath, difficulty breathing with activity or when lying flat, and swelling in the legs and weight gain from fluid retention. Chest x-ray will often show what is called pulmonary edema, or fluid in the lungs and a blood test known as BNP (B-type natriuretic peptide) will be elevated due to pressure changes in the myocardium. Echocardiogram, or cardiac echo, can identify reduced heart function, impaired filling of the heart, and abnormal heart valves.

There are effective treatments for CHF that include medical and surgical options.

Treatment of This Chronic Heart Disease  

Congestive heart failure can significantly decrease the quantity and quality of your life. One half of people diagnosed with CHF will die within five years of initial diagnosis. There is a significant reduction in the quality of life due to repeat hospitalizations and breathing problems due to poorly controlled CHF. The good news is that there are effective treatments that include medical and surgical options.

  1. Medical therapy

    • Water pills or diuretics (most effective)

    • Beta blockers

    • Ace inhibitors

    • Digoxin (digitalis)

    • Vasodilators (nitrates and hydralazine)

    • Blood thinners

    • Antiarrhythmics

    • Monitor weight

    • Limit salt intake

  2. Surgical therapy

    • Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD)

    • Bi-ventricular pacemaker

    • Stenting of blocked coronary arteries

    • Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) surgery

    • Valve replacement

    • Heart transplant

Taking charge of your health and wellness is probably the biggest investment that you can make in your lifetime. Similar to a monetary investment you can expect to get more out than you put in because improved quality and quantity of life are a priceless reward. The sooner you begin your health and wellness investment the sooner you can expect these changes to become a part of your ordinary daily routine and the sooner you can expect to reap the rewards. Remember that Rome was not built in a day and it will take a continuous commitment to your new lifestyle to reap the rewards.