Heart failure is a condition that occurs when your heart muscles are unable to pump as much blood as your body needs. The body makes up for this by retaining salt and water to increase the amount of blood in the blood stream. The heart also beats faster, which causes the heart to grow bigger in size. The human body is well equipped to cope with heart failure and may not show any symptoms of heart failure until very late in the process. At this point, fluid will start to build up and the body will start showing signs of weakness and breathlessness. This buildup of fluid is referred to as congestion, hence the name congestive heart failure. Congestive heart failure usually gets worse with time, but treatment may slow down the process, help you feel better and live longer.

Heart failureThe causes of heart failure include: heart attack, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart muscle), diabetes, pericardial disease (disease of the sac which surrounds the heart), heart valve disease, heart problems since birth (congenital heart defect), arrhythmia (slow, fast or uneven heart beats) and abuse of alcohol and nicotine.

The early symptoms of heart failure may include: tiredness, shortness of breath with regular activities and exercise, the feeling of the heart beating fast or pounding(palpitations), dizziness or weakness.  As the condition persists, fluid starts to build up in the body, especially the lungs. This results in symptoms such as: shortness of breath even while relaxing, swelling of the legs, feet and ankles, increased weight which can happen at an alarming rate, coughing frequently, feeling the need to urinate in the night more often than needed, and feeling sick all the time. If your symptoms worsen, you should seek immediate care.

The diagnosis of heart failure can be made based on the symptoms, physical examination and diagnostic testing. Upon diagnosis, your provider may prescribe medicines to keep the heart failure from getting worse and to reduce symptoms, so you feel better. Sometimes a defibrillator or pacemaker can be used when heart failure is caused by an abnormal heart rhythm.  A pacemaker makes the heart pump blood effectively and a defibrillator (ICD) can prevent the rhythm problem of the heart. Lifestyle changes are a must when treating heart failure. This can slow down progression of the disease and help to control other diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and coronary artery disease at the same time. Steps for lifestyle changes include: decreased sodium intake, limiting the amount of fluid intake, regular exercise, losing weight, quitting smoking and decrease alcohol consumption.