Heart failure is also known as Congestive Heart Failure, or CHF.
Even though it may sound like it, heart failure does not necessarily mean that the heart has failed. Heart failure is a condition in which the heart can't pump enough blood to meet the body's needs. In some cases, the heart can't fill with enough blood. In other cases, the heart can't pump blood to the rest of the body with enough force. So while the term "heart failure" doesn't mean that your heart has stopped or is about to stop working, heart failure is indeed a serious condition that requires serious medical care.
Heart failure develops over time as the heart's pumping action grows weaker. The condition can affect the right side of the heart only, or it can affect both sides of the heart. Most cases involve both sides of the heart. Right-side heart failure occurs if the heart can't pump enough blood to the lungs to pick up oxygen. Left-side heart failure occurs if the heart can't pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body. Right-side heart failure may cause fluid to build up in the feet, ankles, legs, liver, abdomen, and the veins in the neck. Right-side and left-side heart failure also may cause shortness of breath and fatigue (tiredness). The leading causes of heart failure are diseases that damage the heart. Examples include coronary heart disease (CHD), high blood pressure, and diabetes.
Heart failure can be treated in a variety of ways, including heart-healthy lifestyle changes, medicines, medical procedures and surgery.
Heart healthy lifestyle changes include eating food that is healthy for the heart, managing stress levels, maintaining a healthy weight, doing regular physical exercise, and quitting habits such as drinking and smoking. While following a heart healthy diet, the patient is advised to eat fat-free or low-fat dairy products, such as fat-free milk; fish high in omega-3 fatty acids; fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Intake of sodium has to be restricted as well.
Maintaining a healthy weight is important for overall health and can lower the risk for congestive heart failure. Patients are required to maintain healthy BMI levels, as well as to try and lose weight, especially for patients who are obese. Managing stress and taking part in routine physical activity are additional ways to help prevent onset of congestive heart failure.
Doctors can often administer medications to treat heart failure. These medications include ACE inhibitors (inhibitors of Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme), which help the arteries relax and lower blood pressure, making it easier for the heart to pump blood around the body; diuretics which remove water and salt from the kidneys, and antiplatelet medicines, which stop the platelets from forming clots in the blood.
In some cases, doctors recommend surgery to treat the underlying problem that led to heart failure. These include coronary bypass surgery, heart valve replacement, implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs), Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT), Ventricular assist devices (VADs), and heart transplant.
Heart failure describes the inability or failure of the heart to adequately meet the needs of organs and tissues for oxygen and nutrients. People who experience chest pain and shortness of breath even while at rest are at a risk of developing congestive heart failure, and need to get themselves checked by a doctor.
Heavy or irregular breathing during exercise of any kind of strenuous activity is normal, and if you do not experience any chest pains, there is no need to get yourself checked or treated for ischemic heart disease.
Side effects while treating heart failure are generally side effects of medicines prescribed by the doctor. Many different types of medications are used to treat congestive heart failure, each of which have different kinds of side effects. Antiplatelet drugs can cause diarrhea, rash, or itching, abdominal pain, headache, chest pain, muscle aches, and dizziness. Side effects of anticoagulants are bleeding and necrosis (gangrene) of the skin. Side effects of angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors include cough, elevated blood potassium levels (hyperkalemia), low blood pressure, dizziness, headache, drowsiness, weakness, abnormal taste, and rash. Taking vasodilators may cause lightheadedness or dizziness, increased or irregular heart rate, or headache. Side effects of calcium channel blockers include constipation, nausea, headache, rash, edema, low blood pressure, drowsiness, and dizziness. Anti-arrhythmics may cause dizziness, blurred vision, anorexia, unusual taste, fatigue, nausea and vomiting.
If your doctor has prescribed medicines for the patient, and has asked him to maintain a proper and healthy lifestyle, then it is actually up to the patient to make sure that they do not develop symptoms of congestive heart failure again. In case the patient has undergone surgery for heart failure, then the results are generally permanent, unless the patient goes back to their previous unhealthy lifestyle, and fails to follow up on medications and further visits to the doctor.
In case your doctor has only prescribed lifestyle changes and medicines for treatment of your heart failure, then there is no recovery time as such. But in case you have to undergo surgical treatment, then a full recovery after bypass surgery or heart transplant takes around 12 to 15 weeks, or even more.
While lifestyle changes don’t require any money, treatment of heart failure via medicines or surgical procedures is an expensive treatment, and costs anywhere between Rs. 1 lakh to Rs. 30 lakhs.
Treating congestive heart failure is not a one-time process. Apart from changing your lifestyle and indulging in heart healthy eating, even if your doctor has performed surgical procedures to help treat the disease, following it up is very important. Keep a lookout for any complications, including heart failure or arrhythmias. Also, patients need to keep an eye on risk factors such as cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and diabetes control. Make sure you follow the medication plan prescribed to you by your doctor. Order a stress test if you are having problems with new or worsening symptoms, such as chest pain or shortness of breath.