What is congestive heart failure, and what are the treatment options?Congestive heart failure happens when the heart cannot pump well enough to distribute blood and oxygen to the tissues of the body. It can be caused by a number of factors. The most common is chronic hypertension, or high blood pressure. Other conditions that may lead to heart failure are coronary artery disease, congenital heart disease, valve disease and either very fast or very slow heart rhythms. There are many treatment options for heart failure, including:
- Medical management with drugs such as ACE (Angiotensin Converting Enzyme)
- Repair or replacement of damaged valves.
- Coronary artery bypass graft.
- Cardiomyoplasty, or the use of skeletal muscle to assist the heart.
- Heart transplantation, reserved as a last mode of therapy.
Is there only one type of heart failure?The term congestive heart failure is often used to describe all patients with heart failure. In reality, congestion (the build up of fluid) is just one feature of the condition and does not occur in all patients. There are two main categories of heart failure–Systolic and Diastolic. However, within each category, symptoms and effects may differ from patient to patient.
The two categories are.Systolic heart failure
This occurs when the heart’s ability to contract decreases. The heart cannot pump with enough force to push a sufficient amount of blood into the circulation. Blood coming into the heart from the lungs may back up and cause fluid to leak into the lungs, a condition known as Pulmonary congestion.
Diastolic heart failure
This occurs when the heart has a problem relaxing. The heart cannot properly fill with blood because the muscle has become stiff, losing its ability to relax. This form may lead to fluid accumulation, especially in the feet, ankles, and legs. Some patients may have lung congestion.
Heart Failures are common
Between 2 to 3 million Americans have heart failure, and 400,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. The condition is slightly more common among men than women and is twice as common among African Americans as whites.
Heart failure causes 38,000 deaths a year and is a contributing factor in another 225,000 deaths. The death rate attributed to heart failure has doubled since 1968, in contrast to a greater than 50 percent decrease in coronary disease mortality during the same period. Heart failure mortality is twice as high for African Americans as whites for all age groups.
In a sense, heart failure’s growing presence as a health problem reflects the Nation’s changing population: More people are living longer. People aged 65 and older represent the fastest growing segment of the population, and the risk of heart failure increases with age. The condition affects 1 percent of people aged 50–59, but 10 percent of people aged 80–89.