You may start to experience symptoms of congestive heart failure when your heart’s ability to pump blood to the rest of your body becomes impaired. Heart failure can develop gradually over time or come on suddenly after a heart attack or a disease of the heart muscle. If you are someone who is concerned about your health, here are 10 terms you should know when talking about heart failure with your doctor.
- Hypertension: High blood pressure is a condition in which the force of blood against your artery walls is too high. If your blood pressure is above 140/90, you have hypertension. Over time, this can cause health problems. High blood pressure is one of the most common signs of congestive heart failure.
- Edema: The medical term for fluid retention, edema is a symptom of congestive heart failure. You may experience swelling of your feet, ankles, legs, abdomen, or notice weight gain due to a buildup of fluid in the tissues.
- Dyspnea: Another common sign of heart failure is dyspnea, or shortness of breath. Breathlessness is experienced during activity, while resting, or while sleeping. With heart failure, breathing is affected because fluid enters the lungs due to blood backing up in the pulmonary veins.
- Heart palpitations: These cause a feeling that your heart is racing or throbbing. If you have heart failure, you may sometimes experience heart palpitations.
- Arrhythmias: A cause of congestive heart failure can be an abnormal heartbeat, resulting in your heart working too hard. The extra work for your heart may cause it to weaken over time, leading to heart failure.
- Coronary artery disease (CAD): Your arteries are responsible for supplying oxygen-rich blood to your heart. When these arteries become damaged or diseased, they will narrow, causing a decrease in blood flow to the heart. CAD is a common cause for congestive heart failure.
- Cardiomyopathy: Damage to the heart muscle caused by alcohol or drug abuse, infection, and chemotherapy is known as cardiomyopathy. When heart muscle is damaged, the heart has difficulty supplying blood to the body, leading to heart failure.
- Myocarditis: This is inflammation of the heart muscle, most likely caused by a virus. It is another potential cause of congestive heart failure.
- Lifestyle changes: In combination with prescribed medications, your doctor will recommend you adopt healthy lifestyle changes in order to improve symptoms and overall quality of life. Some changes include: maintaining a healthy weight, eating healthy, exercising, and reducing stress.
- Angioplasty: Angioplasty is a common, non-surgical treatment that may be recommended depending on the cause of heart failure. This treatment involves using a balloon-tipped catheter to unblock arteries that are obstructed with plaque deposits.
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