Congestive Heart Failure Fact Sheet
Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a term that describes a condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood. This results in a decrease of blood to other organs, limiting their ability to carry out essential body functions. CHF can develop in several situations, including narrowed arteries, the presence of scar tissue from a past heart attack, high blood pressure or heart valve disease. To effectively treat CHF, the underlying reason must be determined and corrected if possible.
Fatigue is the earliest symptom. As the condition worsens, fluid accumulates, causing swelling in the ankles, legs or abdomen. Shortness of breath occurs when fluid builds up in the lungs.
Diagnosis and correction of the underlying condition is first. Rest, a proper diet and a modification of daily activities is then combined with medications.
ACE inhibitors and vasodilators cause the blood vessels to expand, therefore increasing the flow. Beta blockers help the heart to work more efficiently. Diuretics remove the excess fluids from the body.
Salt and fluid intake need to be decreased.
Maintain a healthy blood pressure and check body weight regularly. Report unexplained weight gain or swelling.