Congestive heart failure is the last stage of a long-term serious condition. It is not as bad as the name suggests. To understand how to treat the condition, you need to know what it is and its causes. Several techniques can be used to manage the illness. With proper treatment, a person with congestive heart failure can lead a productive life.
Congestive heart failure results from a problem in the structure or function of the heart that limits its ability to supply sufficient oxygen-rich blood to all or some of the body's organs. Congestive heart failure tends to get worse over time and generally cannot be reversed. However, in many cases, it can be treated.
Congestive heart failure most commonly stems from weakening of the heart muscle that results from a heart attack or an infection. High blood pressure can cause the heart muscle to stiffen. Such relatively unusual diseases as cardiomyopathy and myocarditis can inflame the heart muscle. Congestive heart failure can also occur as a result of diseases that cause abnormally high oxygen needs in the body, such as hyperthyroidism.
Fatigue tends to be the earliest symptom. Depending on what part of the heart is affected, other signs include swelling of the legs or stomach. Fluid may also accumulate in the lungs, leading to shortness of breath, a chronic cough, difficulty sleeping while lying down and loss of appetite.
Changes in lifestyle can reduce the symptoms of congestive heart failure. Lower salt intake, as salt causes the body to retain fluids (take note of the salt content of foods, especially processed ones). Start an aerobic exercise program, but under a doctor's care. Sticking to a prescribed exercise program helped improve patients' quality of life and survival rates, according to a study reported in the Oct. 4, 2005, issue of Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health
Drugs that reduce high blood pressure may help relieve congestive heart failure. The drug digoxin, which causes more forceful contractions of the heart, has long been used to treat the condition. Diuretics alleviate the excess fluid build up associated with congestive heart failure. Consult your doctor about what drug combinations work best and ask about side effects.
Depending on the cause and extent of the heart damage and the patient's overall health, surgery may be the only option. If heart valves are diseased or deformed, they can be repaired or replaced. In the best case, such surgery would arrest the progression of congestive heart failure. If arteries are blocked, surgeons may conduct angioplasty or, in severe cases, heart bypass operations. If the heart is damaged beyond repair, a heart transplant may be the only option.
The best way to prevent congestive heart failure is to avoid activities that cause it: Quit smoking, watch your salt intake, limit alcohol consumption, exercise and diet to keep trim. Excess weight places excess strain on your heart.