Many have heard about congestive heart failure, but what exactly is it?
According to the American Heart Association, congestive heart failure occurs when the heart muscle is weakened and cannot pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs for blood and oxygen.
Nearly 6 million Americans are living with heart failure, and over 900,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. Heart failure is more likely to happen as we age, but anyone can develop heart failure, which is a serious, long-term (chronic) condition. But you can live a full and active life with the right medical treatment and the attention you pay to your lifestyle.
Warning Signs of Heart Failure
By themselves, any one sign of heart failure may not be cause for alarm. But if you have more than one of these symptoms, even if you haven’t been diagnosed with any heart problems, report them to a healthcare professional and ask for an evaluation of your heart.
- Shortness of breath
- Consistent coughing or wheezing
- Buildup of excess fluid in the body tissues
- Loss of appetite, nausea
- Increased heart rate
If you have any, or a variety, of these symptoms you should report it to your health provider.
Causes and Risks of Heart Failure
There are a variety of causes and risks for heart failure.Most people who develop heart failure have (or had) another heart condition first. The most common conditions that can lead to heart failure are coronary artery disease, high blood pressure and previous heart attack. If you’ve been diagnosed with one of these conditions, it’s critical that you manage it carefully to help prevent the onset of heart failure.
Treatment Options and the Management of Heart Failure
If your doctor suspects that you have heart failure, specific tests may be ordered to confirm their diagnosis. These may include further physical examination, blood tests, chest x-rays, EKG, exercise stress test, and cardiac catheterization. These tests allow your doctor to better understand how your heart is functioning.
Once you are diagnosed with heart failure, your doctor will often put a treatment plan together that may include lifestyle changes, medications, the use of devices or surgical procedures. You and your doctor can best decide on which is the right treatment plan for you.
Living With Heart Failure
Although it can be difficult to live with a chronic condition like heart failure, many people can and do learn to manage the symptoms and live full and enjoyable lives. People who typically report greater levels of improvement and emotional wellbeing are often the ones who are willing to build new habits around eating better, exercising as directed by their healthcare team, and tracking and managing their symptoms.