What is congestive heart failure?


Know the basics

What is congestive heart failure?

Congestive heart failure, also known as heart failure, is a condition that refers to the weakened pumping power of heart’s muscles. This leads to some dangerous consequences:

  • The heart can not pump enough blood to meet the body’s need.
  • Blood is obstructed in the heart, which puts more pressure in the heart’s wall.
  • The heart has to stretch out to contain more blood.
  • The kidneys respond by causing the body to retain more fluids and salt, causing swelling at some organs. This eventually results in body’s congestion.

Congestive heart failure occurs in either side of the heart. Usually, it starts in the left side and then moves to the right one if there is no proper treatment. Heart failure can be life-threatening.

How common is congestive heart failure?

Heart failure can occur at any age, although it is most common in the elderly. Children with congenital heart defects are also at higher risk at congestive heart failure.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of congestive heart failure?

Heart failure is a chronic disease, which means it can not suddenly reform. The common symptoms of the disease include:

  • irregular heartbeat;
  • fatigue;
  • frequent coughing up blood and wheezing;
  • loss of appetite;
  • nausea;
  • shortness of breath;
  • urgent urination at night;
  • unexplained weight gain;
  • chest pain;
  • swelling in abdomen, legs, ankles and feet.

There may be other symptoms and signs are not mentioned. If you have any questions about these signs, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

You should see your doctor as soon as the symptoms come up. The initial symptoms of the disease are usually chest pain, shortness of breath, coughing up blood and fainted. Call your doctor if there are any adverse effects after treatment or when the symptoms become more severe.

Know the causes

What causes congestive heart failure?

Congestive heart failure is a complication of some certain cardiovascular diseases that damage the heart’s muscles. These diseases include high blood pressure, heart attack, cardiomyopathy and heart valve disease, infection, cardiac arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm), anemia, thyroid disease, lung disease and too much in body fluids.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for congestive heart failure?

There are many factors that can make heart failure get worse:

  • High blood pressure;
  • Coronary artery disease: the narrowed artery may hinder oxygen-rich blood supplying to the heart, causing the heart muscle to weaken.
  • Heart attack: Heart muscles are damaged when a heart attack occurs. This means your heart can not perform as usual.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes can increase the risk of hypertension and coronary artery disease.
  • Certain diabetes medications: These medications as rosiglitazone (Avandia) and pioglitazone (Actos) may increase the risk of heart failure in some people. Even so, you also should not stop using any prescribed medications. If you are using this medicine, ask your doctor if you have any alternative.
  • Sleep Apnea: If you are unable to breathe normally during sleep, there is a decrease in the amount of oxygen in the blood and increase in the risk of abnormal heart rhythms. Both problems can cause the heart to weaken;
  • Congenital heart defects;
  • Valvular heart disease;
  • Infections: viral infection can cause damage to the heart muscle.
  • Abuse of alcoholic beverages: Drinking too much alcohol can impair heart’s ability to perform its function, leading to heart failure.
  • Smoking: Smoking increases the risk of heart failure.
  • Obesity: People who are obese have higher risk of cardiovascular diseases.
  • Abnormal rhythm: irregular heart rhythm, especially when the heart rate is very fast, can weaken the heart muscle and lead to heart failure.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is congestive heart failure diagnosed?

Body tests can show the abnormalities such as swollen legs, gasp for hydrocephalus expression in lung.

For further diagnosis, the doctor may recommend you to take chest X-rays. They can reveal if there are any problems with your heart and lungs. An echocardiogram (a test that uses sound waves to view the heart’s activity) also shows the size of heart and heart muscle or heart valve problems.

How is congestive heart failure treated?

You and your doctor may consider different treatments depending on your overall health and how far your condition has progressed.


There are several medications that can be used to treat CHF:

  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors) open up narrowed blood vessels to improve blood flow. Vasodilators are another option if you cannot tolerate ACE inhibitors.
  • Beta-blockers can reduce blood pressure and slow a rapid heart rhythm.
  • Diuretics reduce your body’s fluid content. CHF can cause your body to retain more fluid than it should.


If medications are not effective on their own, more invasive procedures may be required. Angioplasty, a procedure to open up blocked arteries, is one option. Your cardiologist may also consider heart valve repair surgery to help your valves open and close properly.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage congestive heart failure?

The following lifestyle changes can help you prevent the disease to become worse:

  • Take annual test which can detects the problems as soon as they develop.
  • Stop smoking. Smoking is the leading cause of many health problem, especially heart diseases. 
  • Eat a healthy diet. Aim to eat a diet that includes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, and lean proteins. Besides, you should not add too much salt in your dishes. Sodium can make your heart work harder and cause shortness of breath and swollen legs, ankles and feet.
  • Consider getting vaccinations. If you have heart failure, you may want to get influenza and pneumonia vaccinations. Ask your doctor about these vaccinations.
  • Limit alcohol and fluids. Your doctor likely will recommend that you don’t drink alcohol if you have heart failure, since it can interact with your medication, weaken your heart muscle and increase your risk of abnormal heart rhythms.
  • If you have severe heart failure, your doctor may also suggest you limit the amount of fluids you drink.
  • Reduce stress. When you’re anxious or upset, your heart beats faster, you breathe more heavily and your blood pressure often goes up. This can make heart failure worse, since your heart is already having trouble meeting the body’s demands.
  • Find ways to reduce stress in your life. To give your heart a rest, try napping or putting your feet up when possible. Spend time with friends and family to be social and help keep stress at bay.
  • Sleep easy. If you’re having shortness of breath, especially at night, sleep with your head propped up using a pillow or a wedge. If you snore or have had other sleep problems, make sure you get tested for sleep apnea.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

msBahasa Malaysia

Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

You might also like