Congestive Heart Failure - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Congestive Heart Failure

The term “congestive heart failure” can be somewhat deceiving. The condition doesn’t mean that the heart has failed, but rather that the heart isn’t working as well as it should be. With congestive heart failure, blood flow out of the heart slows and the blood returning to the heart through veins can back up. This increases the pressure in the blood vessels and forces fluid from the blood vessels into body tissues. Sometimes, people with congestive heart failure become short of breath because blood can back up in their lungs.

Heart failure can be caused by a heart attack, clogged blood vessels, high blood pressure, diabetes, or an infection. Patients experience exhaustion, shortness of breath and cold fingers and toes, loose cough and difficulty breathing because of fluid buildup in your lungs.

What Causes Congestive Heart Failure?

Heart failure may result from any or all of the following:

How to Prevent Congestive Heart Failure

Preventing congestive heart failure is essentially risk factor control. Steps to prevent congestive heart failure include:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Losing extra pounds or maintaining a healthy weight
  • Avoiding alcohol or only drinking in moderation
  • Eating a healthy diet that's low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium
  • Exercising regularly
  • Monitoring and managing blood pressure
  • Controlling diabetes and cholesterol

If you do develop congestive heart failure, there are a number of medications or treatment options your doctor may prescribe, however you should still follow the lifestyle modifications listed above.

Diagnosing Congestive Heart Failure

Your doctor will do a complete medical history and physical exam. Other tests may include:

  • Chest X-ray: This common test can identify a number of internal issues that can contribute to or be an indicator of heart failure, including calcium deposits, fluid in your lungs, aortic aneurysms or other blood vessel problems.
  • Echocardiogram: This noninvasive test uses sound waves to evaluate the motion of the heart's chambers and valves, and determine how well the heart is pumping.
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG): This test records the electrical activity of the heart, shows abnormal rhythms (arrhythmias) and can sometimes detect heart muscle damage.

Treating Congestive Heart Failure

  • Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy (CRT): This is a unique device therapy used to help the heart chambers to beat "in synch" with one another. This improves the heart's pumping efficiency and helps to relieve heart failure symptoms.
  • Left Ventricular Reconstruction: This surgery may help patients who have suffered a left ventricle heart attack that has caused the left ventricle to enlarge, and in turn, causing the heart failure. During this procedure, a patient's left ventricle is restored to its original size and orientation to improve the heart's ability to pump blood.

Schedule an Appointment

To learn more about congestive heart failure or request an appointment, please call 1-866-95-PULSE (1-866-957-8573) or request an appointment online.