What is Heart Failure?
Our heart acts as a blood pump. Its regular strong contractions pump the blood to all parts of the body. Any factor that decreases the ability of the heart to pump the blood effectively results in a condition called heart failure.
What Are the Symptoms of Heart Failure?
The common symptoms observed in the patients suffering from heart failure are summarized below.
Shortness of breath: The patient gets short of breath soon after a limited physical activity. The SOB also occurs when the patient lies flat. At times patient falls asleep and he suddenly wakes up after 2 – 3 hours of sleep with severe shortness of breath.
Swelling of the body: The body becomes swollen especially of dependent parts, such as areas of the lower back and ankles.
The other symptoms of heart failure include an abnormally fast and audible heartbeat, accumulation of fluids in the abdomen and cough that may be productive in nature.
What Are the Causes of Heart Failure?
The rule of thumb is that Heart failure occurs as an endpoint in response to a number of cardiac diseases. The common conditions that can lead to heart failure are summarized below.
Ischemic Heart Disease or Coronary artery disease: Heart attack or coronary heart disease is a leading cause of heart failure. In a heart attack, a part or whole of heart muscle wall gets damaged by insufficient blood supply. This results in a decrease in the force of contraction of heart muscles. Thus, Heart fails to supply blood adequately to all parts of the body.
Hypertension: High Blood pressure can exert an extra load on the heart making heart muscles weaker with the passage of time, leading to heart failure.
Diseases of heart muscles (Cardiomyophathy ): There are different factors such as infections, alcohol or cocaine abuse and toxic drugs that can cause damage to heart muscles ultimately resulting in heart failure.
The other problems that can lead to heart failure include abnormalities of the heart valves, rhythm disturbance of heart and heart diseases present at birth.
How Is Heart Failure Diagnosed?
The tests commonly advised to confirm whether or not you are having a heart failure are as under
- Chest X-ray
- B-type natriuretic peptide levels
What Is the Treatment of Heart Failure?
Following drugs can be used in the treatment:
- Diuretics: Diuretics decrease the fluid content of the body by producing more urine. These drugs help to reduce swelling and build up fluid in the lungs. Thus, these drugs help to reduce the symptoms of swelling as well as shortness of breath felt on lying flat.
- ACE inhibitors: Ace inhibitors (eg. Captopril, lisinopril etc) decrease blood pressure and help to reduce the workload on the heart.
- Beta-blockers: These drugs slow down the heart rate and decrease the workload and oxygen requirement of heart muscles.
- Digoxin: Digoxin force the heart muscle to contract strongly, thus improves the pumping ability of the heart.