Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a chronic condition where the heart is unable to pump blood properly. Narrowing of the arteries, high BP, and other similar conditions can weaken your heart and affect its ability to pump blood. Some heart conditions are reversible, but the ones that are not will receive lifelong treatment where you need the timely help of a cardiologist.

Symptoms of congestive heart failure

The typical symptoms of heart failure include:

  • A shortage of breath and a rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Swelling in your ankles, feet, abdominals, and legs
  • A persistent cough accompanied by phlegm and blood in it
  • Fluid retention
  • Puffiness of face
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Shortage of breath or chest pain
  • Difficulty to perform the exercise

Causes of congestive heart failure

Heart failure develops when other underlying conditions have damaged or weakened your heart. It can also be caused if your heart ventricles become too stiff. Conditions that can damage or weaken your heart and cause heart failure include:

  • Narrowing of your arteries that supply blood to your heart muscle due to the build-up of fatty deposits of plaque. This reduces the flow of blood to your heart over time.
  • Having high blood pressure can cause your heart to pump out less than half the blood it fills in its ventricles, increasing your risk of developing heart failure.
  • A damaged valve, due to coronary artery disease or heart infection, forces your heart to work harder. This can weaken your heart over time.
  • Damage to your heart muscles due to diseases, infections, alcohol abuse, and drugs can cause severe damage.
  • Congenital heart defects could affect your heart muscles, chambers, or valves
  • Abnormal heart rhythms can cause it to either beat too fast or too slow
  • Chronic diseases, such as diabetes, HIV, hyperthyroidism, and hypothyroidism
  • Viral infections that cause inflammation of heart muscles

How congestive heart failure is diagnosed?

Your cardiologist will carefully evaluate your medical history, and symptoms, and conduct a physical examination on you. You may then be subjected to the following tests:

  • Blood tests to check your kidney, liver, and thyroid function
  • A chest X-ray to check the condition of your lungs and heart
  • An electrocardiogram test to record the activity of your heart through electrodes attached to your skin
  • An echocardiogram test to record a video image of your heart using sound waves
  • Stress test to measure your heart’s response to physical exertion or drugs that stimulate your heart similar to what it undergoes during exercise
  • A CT scan or an MRI scan using specialized machinery that produces detailed images of your heart
  • Coronary angiograms can help identify narrowed arteries through the use of dye injected into them.
  • A myocardial biopsy can be used to evaluate tiny pieces of muscle taken from your heart. This can help identify heart muscle diseases.

Congestive Heart Failure treatments

The treatment of heart failure involves treating the underlying cause through medications, devices to measure your heartbeat, and surgical repair. You may be advised to use one or a combination of the following medications:

  • ACE inhibitors
  • Beta-blockers
  • Diuretics or water pills 
  • Drugs that improve the strength of your heart muscle contractions

In case of surgical intervention, your cardiologist may recommend surgery in some cases to treat an underlying problem. This includes:

  • Coronary bypass surgery to free up severely blocked arteries
  • A heart valve repair or replacement with a prosthetic valve (if required) in the case of a faulty heart valve
  • Devices similar to a pacemaker implanted under your skin in your chest to monitor your heart rhythm
  • The heart pumps implanted into your chest to assist a weakened heart pump blood to the rest of your body
  • A heart transplant is reserved for people with severe heart failure. Medications or surgery may not have much effect on these people.