Heart Failure – What to Expect

Heart failure refers to the condition where the heart is unable to pump or find it difficult to pump the oxygenated blood to your body. We have heard heart failure as a common ailment in the recent years. What is a heart failure? Let us have a brief outlook on heart failure.

Heart Failure – How heart works?

In simple terms, heart failure is a condition where the blood circulation is abnormal.

Heart circulates blood throughout the body. It measure to the size of the fist and this size varies with every individual. The muscular organ contracts and expands while sending and receiving blood. This contraction and expansion sends and receives blood from the body. Every time when the heart squeezes and expands, the heart beats. Lungs add oxygen to the blood and the oxygenated blood is circulated by the heart.

Heart is divided into four chambers, upper chambers called atrium and lower chambers called ventricles. The right side of the heart sends blood to the lungs for getting oxygen. The oxygenated blood is received by the left side of the heart, which them pumps out the blood. Again, the impure blood is received by right side of the heart and sent to lungs for purification. This is a continuous process. Any interruption in this process may end up with heart failure.

Since lungs are associated with major function of heart, any malfunction in the lungs also affects heart.

It is classified into three categories:

  • Systolic heart failure – where the left ventricles of the heart become weak
  • Diastolic heart failure – where the heart is unable to expand and receive the blood
  • Damage to heart valves – narrowness of the heart valves prohibiting sending and receiving the blood

Causes of heart failure:

  • Hypertension
  • High blood pressure
  • Overall weakness of muscles
  • Heart valves damages
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Any history of heart disease like heart attack,

What happens in case of heart failure?

Since heart is made of muscles, it may become weaker over time due to aging. Weaker heart muscles are unable to pump in and pump out the blood efficiently. Imagine the case of a rubber band or a balloon, when it loses the elasticity, it won’t be strong enough to hold objects or air! Similarly weak muscles lead to heart failure where the heart either unable to send or receive blood.

The walls of the heart chambers will become more stiff and thick, losing the elasticity, flexibility and even the shape. The thick walls enlarge the heart chambers and it prevents the inflow of blood from lungs to the chambers. Restricted blood inflow means restricted blood circulation. It ends with fluid retention. When it is repeated simultaneously, it may end up chronic or congestive heart failure.

As mentioned above, any malfunctions in the heart also affect the lungs. Building up of fluids in the heart chambers or vice versa makes the lungs congested. When the heart doesn’t receive the oxygen rich blood from the lungs, the lungs accumulate the blood and it congests the lungs.

It is not necessary that all chambers of heart fail to function. Damages to any part of the heart may affect the whole blood circulation process.

Symptoms of heart failure:

Symptoms of heart failure differ with defective parts of the heart in right and left side. When the right side of the heart is damaged, the signs and symptoms include,

  • Accumulation of fluid in the body – swollen legs, abdomen,
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Difficulty in breathing

Left side of the heart failure generally caused due to weaker muscles and it happens commonly due to gaining. The signs and symptoms include,

  • Wheezing
  • Sleep Apnea – absence of sleep / finding difficult to fall asleep
  • Tiredness and difficult breathing
  • Pale skin and pink mouth

How heart failure is treated

When it comes to treating the treat failure, there is no obvious cure but normal life can be retained with lifelong medications and lifestyle modifications. Surgery is performed to remove the blocks in the hear t valves and remove the building up fluids in the heart. In case of congestive heart failure, a heart transplant is recommended.

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