Heart failure is a chronic medical condition that occurs when the heart is unable to effectively pump blood at an optimal rate. The term “heart failure” is commonly used to refer to congestive heart failure or CHF, a type of heart failure that causes fluid buildup in the lungs and elsewhere. However, there are many types or causes of heart failure, and not all cause fluids to build up. Causes of heart failure include:
coronary artery disease
high blood pressure
heart valve problems
heart infections and inflammation
long-term use of certain medications
alcohol or drug abuse
The most common symptoms of heart failure are shortness of breath and fluid buildup, especially in the lungs or the feet and ankles. Other symptoms include fatigue, dizziness, palpitations (rapid or irregular heartbeat), frequent need to urinate and weight gain. In its early stages, heart failure may cause few or no noticeable symptoms.
Heart failure treatment will depend on its underlying cause, the stage of the disease and other factors. Options can include:
medications to help manage the symptoms of the disease and to help prevent damage to the heart
diuretics, special medicines to help the body clear itself of excess fluids in the lungs and elsewhere
lifestyle changes like eating a low-sodium diet and losing excess weight
treatments to stabilize the heart’s electrical activity (the rhythm and regularity of the heartbeat)
treatment for valve diseases or structural defects
medication to treat infections
oxygen therapy to reduce fatigue and improve physical activity levels
Today, there are many treatment options that can help patients with heart failure live normal, healthy lives. Patients with heart failure will need to have ongoing care to help them manage their disease and to be evaluated to determine how the disease is progressing. Testing can include routine EKGs, stress tests, echocardiography, minimally-invasive angiography to see inside the heart and other approaches to assess specific symptoms.
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