What is Heart Failure?

Heart failure also known as congestive heart failure may be defined as a condition in which heart is not able to efficiently pump enough oxygen-rich-blood to rest of the body .Without enough blood, normal body functions are affected.

Signs and symptoms of heart failure:

Signs of heart failure can vary depending on the stage and severity of the condition. Here are some common signs and symptoms that may indicate heart failure:

  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea): Breathlessness or difficulty breathing, especially during physical activity or when lying down flat.
  • Fatigue and weakness: Feeling tired or exhausted even with minimal physical exertion or at rest.
  • Swelling (edema): Fluid retention leading to swelling in the legs, ankles, feet, or abdomen.
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat: Palpitations or a sensation of the heart racing or skipping beats.
  • Persistent coughing or wheezing: A chronic cough that may produce white or pink-tinged phlegm. Wheezing or coughing worsens when lying down.
  • Reduced ability to exercise: Becoming easily fatigued during physical activity or being unable to engage in activities that were previously manageable.
  • Weight gain: Sudden weight gain due to fluid retention.
  • Decreased appetite or nausea: Loss of appetite, feeling full quickly, or experiencing digestive discomfort.
  • Frequent urination: especially at night: Increased need to urinate during the night (nocturia).
  • Mental confusion or impaired thinking: Difficulty concentrating, memory problems, or a general sense of mental fogginess.

Types of heart failure:

On the basis of functioning of the heart:

  1. Systolic Heart Failure: This type of heart failure occurs when the left ventricle, the main pumping chamber of the heart, weakens and becomes unable to contract effectively. As a result, the heart has difficulty pumping enough oxygen-rich blood to meet the body’s needs..
  2. Diastolic Heart Failure:
    Diastolic heart failure, also known as heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF), happens when the left ventricle becomes stiff and loses its ability to relax properly during the filling phase. This stiffness impairs the heart’s ability to fill with blood adequately, leading to reduced blood supply to the body.

Causes of heart failure:

  • Coronary Artery Disease (CAD
  • High Blood Pressure (Hypertension
  • Heart Attack
  • Cardiomyopathy(diseases of heart muscle)
  • Heart Valve Problems
  • Congenital Heart Defects
  • Arrhythmias(abnormalities in heart rhythm)
  • Diabetes
  • Sleep Apnea( pauses in breathing during sleep)
  • Other Factors: Other factors that can contribute to heart failure include: Obesity,  kidney disease, thyroid disorders, certain medications (such as chemotherapy drugs), excessive alcohol consumption,recreational drug use.

Treatment for heart failure:

Depending upon severity and cause of heart failure various treatments are:

This includes

  • Maintaining a balanced diet low in sodium
  • Limiting fluid intake, exercising regularly
  • Managing stress
  • Avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.

Several medications are used to treat heart failure. These include:

  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors: They help dilate blood vessels and reduce the workload on the heart.
  • Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs): Similar to ACE inhibitors, they block the effects of a hormone that narrows blood vessels.
  • Beta blockers: These medications slow the heart rate, reduce blood pressure, and improve heart function.
  • Diuretics: They help eliminate excess fluid and reduce swelling.
  • Aldosterone antagonists: They help reduce fluid retention and lower blood pressure.
  • Digoxin: It strengthens the heartbeat and can improve symptoms in some cases.
  • Sacubitril/valsartan: A medication used to treat certain types of heart failure. It combines an angiotensin receptor blocker (ARB) with a neprilysin inhibitor.

In certain cases, medical devices can be used to manage heart failure. These include:

  • Implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs): They monitor heart rhythm and deliver electrical shocks if life-threatening arrhythmias occur.
  • Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT): A pacemaker-like device is implanted to improve the coordination and pumping efficiency of the heart.

In some situations, surgery may be necessary. Options include:

  • Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG): It bypasses blocked coronary arteries to improve blood flow to the heart muscle.
  • Heart valve repair or replacement: Damaged heart valves can be surgically repaired or replaced to improve heart function.
  • Left ventricular assist device (LVAD): A mechanical pump is implanted to assist the heart’s pumping function, typically used in advanced heart failure or as a bridge to heart transplantation.
  • Heart transplantation: In severe cases, a heart transplant may be the only viable treatment option.

This structured program combines exercise, education, and counselling to improve heart health and manage heart failure symptoms.