Once known as the silent killer, Congestive Heart Failure no longer has to be a death sentence.

For years, medical practitioners have used the term congestive heart failure to describe a disease process that, in its simplest form, means congestive heart inefficiency, and not an overall failure for most.

Once believed to be a verifiable death sentence for patients, medical science has matured, studied this health issue, and through trial and error has discovered that many forms of this heart inefficiency don’t automatically equate to a patient’s demise.

On the contrary, there are variations in this disease’s process of infliction. Those living with mild to moderate congestive heart failure often times live full and normal lives with the help of medication and treatments.

As is the case with many diseases in the world, there are countless myths and false claims attached to this one as well. To date, what we in the medical profession can state as an absolute fact is the following:

• CHF is a condition meaning that the heart’s pump function doesn’t operate adequately to meet the body’s basic needs.
• There is no one way to develop this condition. Oftentimes it can be brought on by other ailments or disease processes.
• In general, the overall symptoms of CHF vary from person to person, but can include a diminished exercise capacity, edema (swelling in extremities, typically the lower extremities).
• CHF is a progressive disease that can worsen over time.
• Fatigue is a common occurrence.
• Shortness of breath is common.

Conditions such as valvular heart disease or coronary artery disease can cause weakness in the heart and can lead to congestive heart failure. When this weakness occurs, the heart can’t pump blood through the body at a normal (regular) rate or speed. This inability to function properly causes pressure to build up in the heart and its valves, and that pressure reduces the flow of oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. When this happens, the fluid becomes stagnant and builds up in other organs, such as the lungs. As less blood is pumped out of the heart muscle, the blood that returns doesn’t go back through the appropriate channels adequately, which leads to more fluid retention.

This ends up putting more extreme pressure on the heart and other organs, and in turn, making this whole vicious cycle even worse.

Patients, long before they are diagnosed with congestive heart failure, must be proactive when it comes to their health. Learning how to identify the signs and symptoms of diseases’ processes, such as those of this disease will help their medical team better treat them should the time come. Relaying all information to your doctor or healthcare provider will help them recognize when something is amiss, and eventually, help them build a solid treatment plan for you. In most cases, the treatment of congestive heart failure will include lifestyle modifications aimed at circumventing problems or reversing detrimental factors. Medication is often prescribed for the same. In severe (advanced) cases, a heart transplant or mechanical therapies may also become necessary.

Congestive Heart Failure functional capabilities for patients can be classified in the following ways:

Class I – Patients with no physical mobility issues

Class II – Patients with minor physical mobility issues

Class III – Patients with marked limitations (unable to complete ordinary tasks) without modifications Class IV – Patients who cannot complete tasks without extreme discomfort

Understanding that this silent killer often accompanies other disease processes will help you recognize the signs and symptoms before they become life-altering for you.

Also, keep in mind that serious risks increase with age and other related health conditions. Fully assess anything that seems off with your body. Discuss it with your healthcare team and adhere to any recommendations they have for you.

If you are diagnosed, understand that there are treatments that can help you live normally, and
possibly, reverse some of the damage that’s already been done.