Congestive Cardiac Failure (CCF) is a disease which impairs the heart's ability to pump oxygen-rich blood to the tissues of the body. The syndrome can be caused by hypertension, heart attack, diabetes and coronary artery disease. Knowing the risks and symptoms of congestive heart failure can prolong and enhance the quality of life for people who obtain early treatment.
Congestive heart disease symptoms and risk factors
Symptoms of congestive heart failure (CHF) include, malaise, breathlessness upon exertion, reduced appetite, wheezing, excessive fluid in the ankles, legs, feet, stomach or lungs (pulmonary oedema), as well as tightness and pain in the chest (angina). Pink-tinged sputum is a dangerous sign of fluid on the lungs. According to the British Heart Foundation, there are approximately "27,000 new cases of congestive heart failure in the UK every year." Risk factors for CHF include obesity, heart attack, drug and alcohol abuse, high blood pressure, enlarged heart ventricles, and inflammation of the heart muscle, known as myocarditis.
Diagnosis and treatment
A general practitioner will perform a complete physical examination and will order blood tests, medical imaging and X-rays to diagnose heart failure. An echocardiogram is one of the best methods for diagnosing the disease. It is a device which uses sound waves to measure how well the heart is pumping. With each heartbeat, the left ventricle contracts and forcibly pumps blood into the aorta. A measurement of the percentage of pumped blood is called the "ejection fraction". The physician will the examine ejection fraction and other test results to determine the stages of congestive heart failure based upon New York Heart Association Guidelines. The NYHA classification measures the four stages of heart failure, beginning with the mildest stage, up to end-stage heart disease. The health care provider may recommend lifestyle changes to his patient, including a reduction in fat and sodium intake, moderate exercise and weight loss. Digitalis, beta blockers, antagonists, diuretics and other heart medication may be prescribed. Depending upon the underlying reason for congestive heart failure, surgery may be needed to repair or replace damaged heart valves. Heart bypass surgery may be necessary to reverse any obstruction or narrowing of the coronary arteries. Implant devices or pacemakers may be warranted for certain types of abnormal heart rhythm. Patients with end-stage heart disease may require a heart transplant. Heart failure is more of a syndrome than a specific disease. Disease processes caused by improper diet, obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes or congenital heart defects can come together to form "the perfect storm" known as CCF - a weak and enlarged heart muscle which is incapable of supplying enough blood and oxygen needed to keep the body healthy. The best cure, as always, is early prevention and education.