If you are concerned about congestive heart failure for yourself or a loved one, it’s wise to ask questions, seek out information, and learn about this condition. A solid understanding can help you identify the warning signs and seek treatment if congestive heart failure has developed.
Is Congestive Heart Failure and Cardiovascular Disease the Same Thing?
There is a difference between congestive heart failure and cardiovascular disease. While congestive heart failure indicates that the heart is not functioning as normally as possible, cardiovascular disease encompasses a range of heart-related conditions, including:
- High blood pressure
- Heartbeat issues
- Heart defects
- Chest pains
When left untreated, components of cardiovascular disease can increase your risk of developing congestive heart failure.
What Are the Signs of Congestive Heart Failure?
Patients with congestive heart failure have bodies that work overtime to maintain proper blood flow. The heart enlarges and blood vessels narrow to help support the right flow and pressure. It also causes a lack of blood flow within the body; the heart and brain receive what is available, meaning less vital organs no longer have access to the proper blood levels.
During the initial stages of congestive heart failure, patients usually experience no symptoms or warning signs. However, they eventually notice:
- Fast or arrhythmic heartbeat
- Breathing difficulty
- Physical weakness
- Swelling in the legs, feet, or abdomen
- Continuous coughing, sometimes accompanied by foamy mucus
- Abdominal discomfort and nausea
- Chest pains
- Loss of appetite
- Weight gain due to swelling
How Is Congestive Heart Failure Diagnosed?
The best time to catch congestive heart failure is early in its development. The only way to accomplish that is through routine checkups with a heart specialist.
To diagnose congestive heart failure, your doctor will first gather your medical history and your family’s heart-related history. They will also analyze your symptoms and risk factors before performing diagnostic testing.
Testing can include:
- Blood analysis
- Chest X-rays
- ECG (electrocardiogram)
- Echo (echocardiogram)
- MRI scans
- RVG (radionuclide ventriculography)
What are My Treatment Options?
If diagnosed with congestive heart failure, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes, provide certain medications, and even implant certain devices to help improve symptoms and your quality of life. However, there is no complete cure for this condition. Your doctor’s treatment plan is designed to slow the progression of damage to the heart by helping decrease its workload.
Recommended lifestyle changes may include:
- Quitting smoking
- Losing weight
- Staying physically active
- Improving eating habits
- Limiting alcohol consumption
- Avoiding caffeine
- Reducing stress