Congestive Heart Failure: Symptoms and Causes You Should be Aware of

February is American Heart Month, but your heart health should be always on your mind. One of the most common cardiac conditions that you can experience is congestive heart failure(CHF). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 6 million adults in the United States experience heart failure, making it an extremely common condition.

What Is Congestive Heart Failure?

The term “Congestive Heart Failure” can sound very scary, and while this is a serious medical condition it just refers to the heart’s inability to pump blood correctly. When this happens, the amount of blood that fills the heart becomes more limited, making it harder for oxygen to reach other parts of your body.

The Four Stages of Congestive Heart Failure

Heart failure is a progressive disease, meaning that it can be managed and it can get worse or better. There are 4 stages of congestive heart failure- A , B , C and D, with the last two stages being the defining stages for heart failure. The American Heart Association identifies the four stages below:

Stage A: Risk for Heart Failure

People who are at risk for heart failure but do not yet have symptoms or structural or functional heart disease. Some of the risks of heart failure include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Smoking

Stage B: Pre-Heart Failure

People who lack current or previous symptoms of heart failure but with either structural heart disease, increased filling pressures in the heart, or other risk factors.

Stage C: Symptomatic Heart Failure

People who have current or past symptoms of heart failure.

Stage D: Advanced Heart Failure

When the symptoms of heart failure have impeded daily activities of life and lead to further complications such as hospitalizations.

Symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure

Some of the most common symptoms associated with CHF are:

  • Fatigue- Excessive fatigue when doing everyday activities can be a sign that your heart is not enough pumping blood to meet the needs of your body’s vital organs.
  • Swelling- When you are in heart failure your heart does not pump enough blood with each heartbeat, which forces fluid from the blood vessels into other tissues. This will usually lead to swelling of the ankles, arms, belly or other parts of the body.
  • Heart palpitations- If you are in congestive heart failure, you may experience increased heart rate as your heart beats faster to make up for the lack of pumping capacity.
  • Shortness of breath- Feeling like you can not catch your breath at rest can be a sign that fluid is collecting in your lungs.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms make sure to talk to your primary care provider to determine if an evaluation of your heart is needed. A doctor will order specific blood tests to determine how much oxygen your blood is circulating. Imaging tests can also show the structure and function of your heart and its chambers.

Living with Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive heart failure is a chronic condition, meaning there is no cure, though those who have the condition can manage it and live full happy lives. CHF can be managed with dietary and lifestyle changes, as well as medication. If you have congestive heart failure it is important that you need to keep track of your symptoms and report any changes to your doctor.

At the SMH Heart Center, we have the most experienced cardiologists in the region, ready to support your cardiac needs. Call (985) 280-4478 for more information.