Heart failure is often called CHF or congestive heart failure because many people with heart failure have buildup of fluid in their lungs which is where the term “congestion” comes in. Part of heart failure is simply having a weak heart muscle and the other part is how a persons body reacts to it. Arteries constrict and become smaller when a person has heart failure or is having an exacerbation of heart failure. This makes it harder to pump the blood out of the heart to circulate throughout the body which makes the blood back up around the heart and around the lungs.
The primary symptoms of congestive heart failure are:
1. Sudden weight gain of 3-4 lbs in 1-2 days or 2 lbs overnight. It is of the utmost importance that a person with congestive heart failure weigh themselves on a daily basis and keep a record of it. It can be reported to the doctor and can prevent exacerbations.
2. Swelling of the legs, feet or ankles.
3. Swelling, pain or bloating of the abdomen.
4. Frequent dry hacky cough or what seems like constantly trying to clear the throat.
5. Increased shortness of breath or waking up breathless during the night.
6. Feeling like you can’t sleep good unless you’re propped up on extra pillows or up in a recliner.
7. Being very tired with hardly any activity.
8. Loss of appetite.
People with congestive heart failure can lead normal lives with the right management most of the time. Having good communication with your doctor is the key ingredient. For example if you weigh yourself and see that you have gained 4 lbs in 2 days and remember feeling like you needed 3 pillows the night before instead of one and are experiencing a hacky cough, you could call the doctor, who may be able to make a medication dose change over the phone and keep you out of the hospital, where if you wait and decide to see how you feel the next day, you may find yourself in the emergency room with extreme shortness of breath where the fluid has built up too much.
Sometimes there can be other causes of heart failure such as severe anemia, an overactive thyroid, heart arrhythmia, dysrythmia or excessive use of alcohol. The stress of the above causes the heart to pump harder and faster than normal which can cause congestive heart failure.