Congestive Heart Failure Definition
Congestive heart failure (CHF), also known as heart failure, occurs when the heart is too weak or too stiff to pump an adequate amount of blood through the body. While people use the term "congestive heart failure" to describe all types of heart failure, true congestive heart failure occurs when the heart's inability to sufficiently circulate blood causes fluid build up in tissues in the body. Congestive heart failure develops slowly and the patient may go for long periods without symptoms.
Symptoms Symptoms of congestive heart failure include swelling in the feet, ankles and legs. Fluid build up also occurs in other parts of the body, such as the abdomen and the lungs. Fluid build up in the lungs causes shortness of breath, especially when the individual is lying down. Known as pulmonary edema, this is a serious condition and requires immediate medical attention to prevent the body from drowning in its own fluid.
Causes Causes of congestive heart failure include hypertension, history of heart attack, coronary artery disease, irregular heartbeats, congenital heart defects, diabetes, viruses, kidney disease, alcohol use and some medications, especially medications used to treat diabetes.
Effects As congestive heart failure starts, the heart tries to compensate by enlarging and developing more muscle mass so it can pump more blood out to the body. The body compensates by narrowing blood vessels to increase blood pressure and divert blood to vital organs and away from less important body tissues. These measures help temporarily, but eventually the heart failure worsens until the body cannot keep up and severe congestive heart symptoms begin to occur.