Congestive Heart Failure Warning Signs

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Congestive heart failure occurs when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to the body's tissues, usually occurring as a result of a heart disease. There are two possible scenarios: Either the heart is unable to pump out all the blood that enters its chambers, or the chambers are too stiff and cannot relax enough for blood to flow in and fill the chambers.

Significance

  • Also known simply as heart failure, congestive heart failure is the most common reason for hospitalization among the elderly. According to the National Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health, more than 3 million Americans have congestive heart failure, and this number is rapidly increasing as the population ages. Some people are more susceptible to congestive heart failure than others. Below are some of the known trends and warning signs.

Trends

  • In general, men are at a higher risk for heart failure than women, but this difference narrows with age. People of African descent are also said to be at a higher risk and have a higher possibility of dying from congestive heart failure than Caucasians. People with a family history of early congestive failure, particularly one that results from cardiomyopathies, may be more predisposed to this condition as well.

Heart Diseases

  • As mentioned above, most heart failures result from another heart disease. The major causes of congestive heart failure include coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, valvular heart disease, cardiomyopathies and viral infections of the heart muscle such as acute myocarditis.

What Happens

  • Heart failure can occur in an instant and progress rapidly. It usually results when fluid backs up to the lungs and leaks into the tissues leading to congestion. It can also occur if the body does not get enough oxygen. If any of the following symptoms in the preceding sections occur, it is vital to consult a physician immediately or go straight to the emergency room. Those who are susceptible to heart failure should be knowledgeable about the signs and symptoms because a few minutes can be decisive in these instances. Symptoms for heart failure can occur on the left side or the right side of the heart.

Left-side Heart Failure

  • Symptoms of left-side heart failure include fatigue, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing at night, which sometimes causes awakening. Other symptoms may include a dry, hacking cough or wheezing that worsens with lying down and improves with standing or sitting up as well. Unintended weight loss is another possible symptom.

Right-side Heart Failure

  • Symptoms of right-side heart failure include fatigue and fluid retention, first in the feet, then the ankles and legs and finally the abdomen. Sufferers may also experience enlargement of the liver, and weight gain, caused by fluid and salt retention, despite loss of appetite and a decrease in muscle mass.

Other Critical Warning Signs

  • If the following symptoms are experienced, it is vital to proceed immediately to the emergency room: cough that produces a pinkish froth, sensation of bubbling in the lungs coupled with wheezing, a feeling of drowning, and pale, clammy or blue-tinged skin.

References

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