Causes and symptoms of chronic heart failure

Heart failure is a condition when the heart is not able to optimally function and thus unable to pump blood properly. Heart diseases such as coronary artery disease or high blood pressure can make the heart muscles weak and damaged.

But what is chronic heart failure? Chronic heart failure is ongoing as opposed to acute heart failure that may occur suddenly. Acute heart failure can occur all of a sudden when someone experiences a heart attack. In cases of chronic heart failure, the heart muscles weaken over a period of time due to other illnesses and eventually cause symptoms of the disease. It is a very common condition and can affect people of any age.

Causes

  • Heart failure can occur when an illness weakens the heart muscles.
  • Coronary artery disease is one of the most common causes of heart failure. It occurs when the arteries become narrow due to fat deposits, thereby affecting the blood supply to the heart. Damaged heart valves weaken the heart, as it cause the heart to work extra hard. Cardiomyopathy or damaged heart muscles can occur due to hereditary factors, alcohol abuse, use of some chemotherapy drugs, cocaine use, infection and other diseases. Arrhythmias or abnormal beats can also exert extra pressure on the heart and lead to its failure.
  • Hypertension or high blood pressure puts pressure on the heart muscles, thus weakening them. Over a period of time, the heart can become too weak or stiff to function well.
  • Myocarditis or inflammation of the heart muscles occurs due to viral infection and causes left-sided chronic heart failure.
  • Congenital heart defects (heart diseases present from birth) and medical conditions like diabetes and thyroid problems can cause heart failure.
  • Lifestyle factors like obesity, higher salt intake, smoking, diet high in fat and excessive alcohol consumption are also risk factors for heart failure.
    Symptoms

The following are the common symptoms of chronic heart failure

  • Weakness
  • Excess fluid retention in the body
  • Sudden weight gain due to excessive fluid
  • Swollen ankles, feet and legs
  • Swelling in the abdomen
  • Appetite loss
  • Cough
  • Nausea and dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Irregular or rapid heartbeat
  • It is vital to see a doctor if you experience any of these signs of heart failure. In cases of sudden chest pain, excessive difficulty in breathing and severe fatigue, you must seek immediate medical attention.

Diagnosis

  • To diagnose chronic heart failure, your doctor may conduct a few tests after considering your medical history and symptoms. These tests can be “
  • Echocardiogram
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • Chest X-ray
  • Coronary angiogram
  • Stress test (to measure heart’s response to exertion)

Treatment

Chronic heart failure has no cure. But with lifestyle changes and treatment options like surgeries (to repair valve or unblock arteries) and medicines, it is possible to manage the condition.