Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a chronic and progressive condition that could evolved into a serious medical challenge when left untreated. It can be potentially life threatening in severe cases.
In this article, we will take a closer look at CHF and its various aspects, including diagnosis, stages, warning signs, and treatment options.
What is Congestive Heart Failure?
Congestive heart failure is a condition in which the heart is not able to pump blood as efficiently as it should. This happens when the ventricles – also known as the lower chambers of your heart – become too weak or too stiff to pump blood effectively around the body.
What causes Congestive Heart Failure?
Damage to the heart muscle from a heart attack, high blood pressure (link to hypertension article), valvular heart disease are some of common causes of congestive heart failure. Uncontrolled diabetes is also often a precursor to heart failure as it can result in a weakening of the heart muscles.
An annual health check with an internal medicine doctor can help to catch chronic illnesses early, and prevent the following heart problems. With the right treatment and close monitoring in place, it is possible to keep the condition under control, and prevent it from worsening.
What are the symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure?
Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a progressive condition. The symptoms are be quite mild at the early stage of CHF. In certain cases where there is a sudden increase in left ventricular filling pressures in addition to conditions such as uncontrolled hypertension, CHF could deteriorate quite quickly.
The most common symptom patients with CHF experience is fluid overload, especially in the ankles, feet, arms, and lungs. This will be experienced as swelling of the feet and legs with often difficulty in wearing shoes, and in shortness of breath, initially during physical effort but later on even at rest.
How to Diagnose Congestive Heart Failure
Diagnosing congestive heart failure typically involves a thorough evaluation of the patient’s medical history, a physical examination, and a variety of diagnostic tests. These tests may include an electrocardiogram (ECG), a chest X-ray, an echocardiogram, a stress ECG test, a heart MRI or computed tomography, or even a cardiac catheterization. These tests can help the doctor determine the underlying cause of the heart failure, as well as its severity.
The Four Stages of Congestive Heart Failure
Congestive heart failure is typically divided into four stages, each of which is characterized by a different level of severity. The four stages are:
Stage A: (Pre- heart failure). This stage is characterized by high risk factors for CHF, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, metabolic syndrome or a family history of heart disease.
Stage B: (Pre- heart failure). This stage is characterized by the presence of structural heart disease, but no symptoms of CHF.
Stage C: (Manifest heart failure diagnosis). This stage is characterized by symptoms of CHF, but the patient is still able to carry out normal daily activities.
Stage D: (Manifest heart failure diagnosis). This stage is characterized by severe CHF, and the patient is unable to carry out normal daily activities without significant symptoms. In this stage, the ejection fraction (the fraction of blood in the heart chamber that leaves the heart with every beat) is typically reduced, and does not improve even with treatment.
How to Know if Your Condition is Worsening
There are a number of warning signs that can indicate that a patient’s congestive heart failure is worsening. These may include increased shortness of breath, increased fatigue, and increased fluid build-up in the legs, ankles, and lungs. If you notice any of these symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention immediately.
Treatment for Congestive Heart Failure
Treatment for congestive heart failure will depend on the underlying cause of the condition, as well as its severity. Some common treatment options include medication, lifestyle changes, and in some cases, surgery. Medications may include diuretics to help remove excess fluid from the body, ACE inhibitors to help reduce blood pressure, and beta blockers to help slow the heart rate. Lifestyle changes may include a low-sodium diet, regular exercise, and quitting smoking. In some cases, a heart transplant may even be necessary.
In conclusion, congestive heart failure is a serious medical condition that can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life. By understanding the diagnosis, stages, warning signs, and treatment options, patients can take an active role in managing their condition and working towards a better outcome. If you are experiencing symptoms of CHF, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
About Dr Adrian Mondry
Dr Adrian Mondry is a Hypertension Specialist accredited by the German Hypertension League in Singapore. He was previously a senior consultant in the department of medicine at the National University Hospital and Ng Teng Fong General Hospital (NTFGH), Dr Mondry has more than 30 years of experience in the field of internal medicine.
Dr Adrian Mondry is recognised for his leadership and contributions in establishing the dedicated hypertension clinic within the National University Health System and fast-track deep vein thrombosis service at NTFGH.
Dr Adrian Mondry is fluent in English, German and French.
About Kaizen Medical
Kaizen Medical is located at Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre, Suite 11-57.
At Kaizen, we provide in depth health care to patients with multi-organs diseases; tackling undifferentiated presentations that cannot be easily assigned to a single organ.