Abstract Congestive heart failure goes by many names. What could determine the name is whether the heart failure occurs on the left side of the heart or the right side. Left sided heart failure has its own symptoms as does failure of the right side. Millions of Americans suffer from congestive heart failure and the numbers will only go up in the future as the population ages. This paper can only hope to alert people to the signs and symptoms of congestive heart failure and seek treatment early to prevent some of the damage it can have on the body.
Congestive Heart Failure 1
Congestive heart failure can be defined as a “syndrome that occurs when the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the body’s metabolic needs. It results in intravascular and interstitial volume overload and poor tissue perfusion and may be classified by the side of the heart it affects, left or right”. (Portable Pathophysiology, 2007, p. 28). There are many diseases that can lead to the heart not being able to adequately supply the body. Disease conditions like diabetes, coronary artery disease, and hypertension can all lead to damage in blood vessels or the heart itself and alter the affect of blood flow throughout the body. Left sided heart failure has a variety of symptoms. Left sided heart failure can lead to pulmonary congestion which can cause symptoms like dyspnea, orthopnea, nonproductive cough, and crackles that can be heard when auscultating the lungs. Lowered cardiac output can cause fatigue and vasoconstriction of the blood vessels which can cause the skin to be pale and feel cool to touch. Right sided heart failure has its own set of symptoms which can help differentiate it from the occurrence of left sided heart failure. Because the blood cannot be adequately pumped to the heart, fluid will accumulate throughout the body and edema will begin to develop, especially in the lower extremities which are furthest from the heart. With the accumulation of fluid, a fast weight gain may occur. Any weight gain that exceeds two pounds a day should be taken as a warning sign.
Congestive Heart Failure 2 There are many tests that can help with diagnosing congestive heart failure. An echocardiogram can indicate any prior damage to the heart. It can also show the size of the heart, indicating any enlargement, and if there is any fluid built up around it. An electrocardiogram, or ECG, allows the heart rhythm to be assessed in order to determine any damage to the heart. A common approach now is cardiac catheterization. “This is a test performed by inserting a tube into either side of the heart and dye is injected to make pathways to the heart more visible on an x-ray” (http://adam.about.com/reports/Heart-attack-and-acute-coronary-syndrome.htm). A blood test called a BNP, or brain natriuretic peptide, can be performed to assess any damage to the heart. According to the website http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3689/is_200301/ai_n9190946, “BNP is a neurohormone that the heart secretes in response to ventricular volume expansion and pressure overload.” If the test inidcates a level less than 100 pg/mL then it is considered normal. The higher the test level the higher indication of heart damage. Treatment for congestive heart failure can be a combination of medications and changes in the one’s lifestyle. Lifestyle changes can vary in the forms of quitting or not smoking, good management of diabetes if the disease is present, and regular exercise. Because the body already has the problem of regulating fluids, it is important to follow a low sodium diet and ingest the proper amount of fluids ordered by the physician. Diuretics like Lasix and Aldactone may be used to help pass extra fluid buildup through the process of