Okay, technically it’s not a machine, but it’s very similar. Your heart is a human pump; and like other pumps, it can break down. One of the most common heart problems is something called Congestive Heart Failure, or CHF. With CHF the heart has been damaged by some type of medical condition and is now no longer pumping as effectively as it had been.
So what happens as a result of CHF?
Well, once the heart’s pumping becomes ineffective, the blood can back up and create “congestion”. If the left side of the heart is not working as well, then the congestion occurs in the lungs, creating something called pulmonary edema. This is because the blood that goes to the lungs to pick up fresh oxygen will then return to the left side of the heart to be pumped out to the rest of the body. As a result, it can be more difficult to breathe, especially when lying down to sleep. If severe enough, someone may need oxygen therapy while sleeping – and even during waking hours if the degree of CHF is bad enough.
On the other hand, if the right side of the heart is damaged, then the blood trying to enter the heart backs up to the liver and the lower body. The back up usually continues to the legs, so you will see swelling in the legs and feet. Additional symptoms associated with heart failure include fatigue, shortness of breath, weight gain and limited endurance.
CHF cannot be cured, but it can often be controlled. It is also one of the most common reasons for admission into a hospital for those over the age of 65. Do you know of anyone who suffers from CHF?
Stay tuned for Part 2, which details CHF causes, treatments and how best to manage this heart problem.
Author: Cheryl A. Acres RN, CCM