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What is congestive heart failure?

When the heart pumps blood at a lesser efficiency than normal, the function of kidneys gets affected, causing water retention in the body. This condition is called ‘congestive heart failure’. Due to various causes, the blood moves through the body and heart at a slower rate causing the chambers of the heart to thicken in response, thereby weakening the heart muscle.

Possible Causes: 

Congestive heart failure causes can be attributed to the following factors:

  • Narrowed arteries in your heart weaken your heart so that it is unable to pump blood efficiently. Most cases of heart failure can be traced to presence of coronary artery disease which reduces blood flow to the heart. 
  • High blood pressure – your heart works harder if blood pressure is high, resulting in heart failure.
  • A damaged or defective heart valve means that your heart has to put in more effort to pump and regulate blood flow.
  • Inflammation or infection or damage to the heart muscle as well as genetic factors may also play a role.
  • Arrhythmias or abnormal heart rhythms may lead to heart failure.
  • Alcohol use – drinking too much alcohol can weaken the heart muscle.
  • Apart from these, sometimes congenital heart defects, allergic reactions, blood clots in the lungs or the use of certain medications may cause acute heart failure.

Risk Factors: 

When the heart is compelled to work harder than it should, you are at a risk of getting heart failure. So, let us understand the common risks associated with heart failure, most of which can be treated and are avoidable.

  • Lifestyle diseases like excessive alcohol intake, tobacco usage, obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.
  • Some medications may lead to heart failure or heart problems. 
  • Sleep apnoea does not allow you to sleep properly at night as your breathing gets affected and low blood oxygen levels increase the risk of abnormal heart rhythms. Both these problems can weaken the heart.

Signs & Symptoms: 

  • Shortness of breath when you exert yourself or when you lie down. Coughing at night after lying flat on bed or needing pillows under the head to sleep are also symptoms.
  • Water retention in the body resulting in swollen ankles, legs and abdomen.
  • Markedly reduced ability to exercise.
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeats.  
  • Fatigue and weakness.
  • Chest pain if your heart failure is caused by a heart attack.

Diagnosis: 

Consult the experienced heart specialists at Medcare to get the right diagnosis. The doctor will first check if you have conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, angina or high blood pressure. Also, whether you smoke or drink or take any medication. Blood test to evaluate haemoglobin level, kidney function, thyroid function and other associated factors which can contribute to or lead to heart failure. 

A chest X-ray is needed as it shows the size of heart and any fluid accumulation in lungs or around heart. An electrocardiogram (ECG) helps to see the presence of any arrhythmia and any sign of heart attack. Echocardiogram (echo) helps to assess the heart’s structure, movement and function. Any deterioration in function, valve leakage or narrowing can lead to heart failure.

Treatment Options:

Congestive heart failure treatment can be multimodal and staged – it includes medication, lifestyle changes and surgery if required. By treating the underlying cause, our heart specialists & cardiologists in Dubai & Sharjah are experts in the different fields pertaining to heart disease, may even improve your heart condition.