Congestive heart failure (CHF) refers to a specific stage of heart failure characterized by a buildup of fluid around the heart that prevents it from keeping up with the workload. CHF is a serious condition that requires medical management because, without treatment, it can be life-threatening. With treatment, however, you can live a full, active life.
If you’re concerned about your heart health, make it a point to learn about the causes and what you can do to protect your heart. Board-certified cardiologist Dr. Ayim Djamson at Metropolitan Cardiovascular Consultants has extensive experience diagnosing and treating heart failure. Those same factors that lower the risk of heart disease also lessen your risk for heart failure. Take a moment as Dr. Djamson explains what you need to know about heart failure and the steps you can take to protect your heart.
What is congestive heart failure?
CHF is often referred to simply as heart failure. However, CHF is a specific stage of heart failure. When you have heart failure, your heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. Various conditions can cause this to happen. When the heart is unable to pump efficiently, fluid backs up and collects around the heart. Symptoms of heart failure include:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Persistent cough
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling of the ankles
- Reduced ability to exercise
Congestive heart failure risk factors
Your risk of CHF increases as you age, but most people who develop it have a condition that affects their heart health. Here are the major risk factors for CHF.
Uncontrolled high blood pressure
Blood pressure that is too high means your heart has to work harder than it should. This is why hypertension that goes untreated for a long period of time raises the risk for heart failure. Excessive high blood pressure weakens the heart, and eventually it becomes unable to pump efficiently. Keeping your blood pressure within a goal range is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of heart conditions.
High blood sugar is detrimental to many body systems, including your heart and circulatory system. If you have diabetes, it’s important to work closely with your health care provider to keep your blood sugar under control. People with diabetes are 2-4 times more likely to develop heart failure. Managing your blood sugar helps to lower the chances of developing heart failure.
Congenital heart defects
Some people are born with heart defects — such as leaky valves, underdeveloped blood vessels, or a hole in their heart. These changes in the structure of the heart can bump up the risk of congestive heart failure.
Inflammation of the heart (myocarditis) puts you at risk of developing CHF, and it can cause issues such as an irregular heartbeat. There are several causes of myocarditis, with viral infection and drug and alcohol abuse among the most prevalent.
Coronary artery disease
Coronary artery disease (CAD) is not only the most common form of heart disease, but also the leading cause of congestive heart failure. CAD is most often caused by a buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries (atherosclerosis) that cause them to narrow, harden and become blocked.
Adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle
Dr. Djamson encourages people of all ages to adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle. Taking steps to promote heart health is the best way to protect against heart failure and heart disease. Steps you can take include:
- Avoiding smoking
- Controlling diabetes
- Keeping cholesterol in check
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Getting plenty of physical activity
- Maintaining healthy blood pressure
- Avoiding excess alcohol consumption
Who is at risk for congestive heart failure?
The disease has an unfortunate prevalence among African-Americans. Men of all races are more vulnerable to congestive heart failure than women, and anyone over age 65 should remain cognizant of their heart’s health at all times.
You are most at risk if you develop a condition that impacts your heart health. The best defense against congestive heart failure is to keep chronic diseases that impact your heart at bay, or manage them appropriately.
Congestive heart failure doesn’t have to be a life-ending disease. Our team is dedicated to helping you live a full, active life and preventing as much damage to your heart as possible.
If you’ve been diagnosed with CHF, or if you have any of the risk factors, please reach out to us by phone or request an appointment online at one of our three locations in Beltsville, Bowie, and Columbia, Maryland. You can also send a message to Dr. Djamson and the team here on our website.