Congestive Heart Failure is also known as CHF or heart failure. Whatever you call it, this condition is one where the human heart is unable to pump blood with the efficiency that it once did. This means that blood, as well as other various fluids, start backing up inside the body. The effect is particularly pronounced in the feet, hands, lungs, and liver.
The human heart has two different sides to it, as well as four different chambers. The right side is what takes in blood depleted of oxygen from throughout the body, sending it into the lungs. Once the lungs replenish the oxygen in the blood, it’s the left side that pumps this fresh blood back out into the overall body.
Congestive Heart Failure is a very serious condition, one that is progressive. It’s often chronic, and it can threaten your life. It might impact the left side of the heart, the right side, or even both sides. Those with CHF have lowered amounts of nutrients and oxygen delivered to their organs, resulting in lost functions and damage.
CHF can happen for several different reasons. Most frequently, the heart undergoes damage, which might be hypertension/high blood pressure, prior heart attacks, or even cardiomyopathy, which is direct damage right to the actual heart muscle. Congestive Heart Failure can also happen if there is any damage to the heart valves or pericardium scarring to the membrane that physically surrounds the human heart. On rare occasions, CHF happens if the heart must start beating with more force than is typical, as which can happen with hyperthyroidism, where it simply can’t keep up with the current demand. Congestive Heart Failure risks are elevated among those with diabetes, the overweight and obese, smokers, and anyone who abuses cocaine and/or alcohol.
CHF is very common in elderly individuals since the human heart tends to lose efficiency with age. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has estimates showing that between 5.5 and 6 million Americans have heart failure at any given time. For those older than 65, it’s among the most frequent reasons for hospitalization.
When blood backs up starting from the heart’s right side, then Congestive Heart Failure symptoms typically start with ankles and legs swelling in ways that get worse if a person stands up but gets better if they lie down. If blood starts backing up from the heart’s left side, then it moves into the lungs, resulting in coughing or breathing, particularly during periods of lying down flat or exercise, even if it’s just walking up a set of stairs. Many individuals that suffer heart failure have demonstrated symptoms of blood that’s backing up simultaneously on both sides of the heart.
On top of shortness of breath and edema/swelling, other symptoms can include the following:
- Rapid pulse, heart palpitations
- Fatigue, weakness
- Less stamina, lower ability to do physical exercise
- Wheezing, coughing
- Sudden gains of weight
- Lost appetite
Laboratory testing can include the following:
BNP or N-terminal pro-BNP: BNP stands for B-type natriuretic peptide, which is a measurement of concentrations of a specific hormone the left ventricle produces. Given its role as the heart’s primary pumping chamber, the left ventricle’s production of BNP helps doctors both diagnose and grade how serious heart failure is.
Metabolic Panel: This looks for things like liver disease, electrolyte imbalances, and kidney failure, given how many kidney disease symptoms are very similar to the ones of Congestive Heart Failure.
CBC: A complete blood count looks for anemia, which not only has symptoms like CHF but can also contribute to CHF.
Thyroid Testing: Such tests check the thyroid hormone levels in the blood. Heart failure can result from both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, which are respectively too much or too little thyroid hormone.
Two relatively new tests are now available for those already diagnosed with CHF to predict their prognosis. ST2 and Galectin-3 tests both measure protein levels in the blood. If these biomarkers are elevated, they might indicate someone who has heart failure is at a higher risk of complications and requires more assertive levels of treatment.