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What is Congestive Heart Failure and Its Four Stages


Congestive Heart Failure

Heart failure is a long-term condition that tends to gradually worsen over time, in which your heart cannot pump blood well enough around the body to meet its needs. When the heart has less pumping power, it can damage the organs, and fluid can build up, most commonly in the lungs and lower extremities (feet or legs).

Congestive heart failure generally happens because the heart has become too weak or stiff. People sometimes call it congestive heart failure, although this name is not widely used now.

Heart failure does not indicate that the heart has ceased functioning. Instead, it means it needs some support to help it work better. It can become present at any age but is more frequent in older people. It usually cannot be cured, but with your doctor’s guidance, you can often control symptoms for many years.

Nearly six million Americans have congestive heart failure, and more than eight hundred thousand people are diagnosed with it yearly. In addition, congestive heart failure is the leading cause of hospitalization in people over sixty.


Often several problems that simultaneously affect the heart may lead to congestive heart failure.

For example, coronary artery disease, where the arteries delivering blood to the heart become obstructed with fatty substances (atherosclerosis), can cause angina or a heart attack.

High blood pressure, which causes stress on the heart, cardiomyopathy, a condition impacting the heart muscle, and arrhythmias, and heart rhythm problems, such as atrial fibrillation, can also cause heart failure.

Other triggers for heart failure may be damage or other issues with heart valves, as well as congenital heart disease when genetic disability affects the heart’s normal functioning.

Sometimes obesity, diabetes, anemia, excessive alcohol consumption, and an overactive thyroid can also lead to heart failure – likewise, pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lungs).



Heart failure can be chronic (ongoing), or it may start suddenly, acute.

Common symptoms of congestive heart failure may be shortness of breath, breathlessness after activity or at rest, rapid or irregular heartbeat (palpitations), and swelling in the lower extremities, for example, legs, ankles, or feet.

Also, a sudden loss of appetite or nausea, trouble concentrating or staying awake, muscle weakness, fatigue, or weakness, feeling lightheaded or fainting, reduced ability to exercise, feeling tired most of the time and finding exercise exhausting, and chest pain or pressure may indicate heart failure.

The symptoms of congestive heart failure may not be the same for all individuals. However, heart failure often causes patients to gain fluid around their bodies. Fluid can build up in and around the lungs causing shortness of breath, and also in the legs and abdomen causing swelling.

Many individuals experience other symptoms, such as persistent coughing, heart beating, and dizziness.

When heart failure brings these severe symptoms, patients may need the assistance of a qualified cardiologist to help discover and treat their condition.

Congestive heart failure may also cause the patient to feel a beating, which is an uncomfortable recognition of a forceful, rapid, or irregular heartbeat. In addition, as heart failure puts pressure on the heart, the strain can cause palpitations.

You must contact your doctor if you experience one or more of these symptoms at any time.


Reducing The Risk

People can reduce their risk of heart failure by controlling conditions that can lead to it. For example, doctors recommend quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet, and regularly exercising for all patients. In addition, people should periodically monitor their blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure.

Finally, everyone should meet with a qualified cardiologist if they are at risk for heart disease, possible symptoms, or family history.

At stage A, you are at high risk of getting congestive heart failure, but you have no symptoms or abnormal changes in your heart. During this stage, it is essential to make lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of developing heart failure.

During this stage, doctors recommend taking some actions like quitting the use of tobacco products. Additionally, maintaining good cholesterol, controlling high blood pressure by medication, a low-sodium diet, and an active lifestyle, and reducing alcohol intake or quitting recreational drugs are essential. In addition, patients should exercise regularly, be activated, and walk daily.

At stage B, the heart has abnormal changes, but patients do not yet feel symptoms.

At this stage, doctors recommend various actions, such as starting to take prescribed medication for the heart, checking for blockages in the heart’s arteries to prevent multiple cardiovascular issues as well, and checking for problems with the heart valves.

When patients begin to feel symptoms because of the heart’s abnormal changes, the patient is in stage C. At this stage, doctors advise several actions, which include the initiation of intake of medication to reduce fluid in the body, restriction of salt and other dietary changes, and monitoring swelling and weight changes.

Doctors may consider patients for advanced cardiac tests and procedures, and certain patients may benefit from pacemakers or defibrillators.

At stage D, patients have very advanced heart failure and do not respond to standard treatment. This stage is critical for the patient. In this stage, the doctor suggests specific actions, which include referral to a center for advanced heart failure care. Likewise, physicians may consider patients for specialized heart failure procedures.

Heart Failure Treatments

The treatment for heart failure aims to control symptoms for as long as possible and slow the condition´s progression. Depending on what is causing your heart failure will be the treatment the doctor will diagnose you with to divert the advance of your situation.

Typical treatments for heart failure include, among others, lifestyle changes, which include eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and quitting smoking. Various medications can help, too; many people need to take two or three different types to respond to treatment.

Devices implanted in the chest can help monitor heart rate; these can help control their heart rhythm. Equally, surgery such as bypass surgery or heart transplant is a treatment for some patients.

Patients will generally require treatment for life. However, a cure may be possible when heart failure has a treatable cause. For example, replacing or repairing your heart valves may cure the condition when damaged.


Outlook Living With Heart Failure

With the proper care, congestive heart failure will not prevent you from doing the things you enjoy.

However, your prognosis, or outlook for the future, will depend on certain factors, including how well your heart muscle works, your symptoms, how effectively you respond to your treatment program, and how closely you follow up on your treatment program.

For example, a study says that people with heart failure have a lifespan of ten years shorter than those without heart failure. Another study showed that survival rates for people with chronic heart failure were eighty to ninety percent for one year, dropping to fifty to sixty percent during the fifth year and thirty percent for ten years.

Additionally, one more study found that people who had heart failure and were discharged from the hospital had an expected life expectancy ranging from three to twenty years, depending on different factors, for example, age and gender. Therefore, looking at your specific situation when considering your prognosis is crucial.

Heart failure can severely limit the activities you can do and is often eventually fatal. But it is not easy to know how the condition will progress individually. It is very unpredictable; many people remain stable for many years, while in some cases, it can worsen rapidly. In addition, each individual reacts differently to the condition, as well as to the treatment.

Set yourself up for triumph by unwinding at least 30 minutes before bedtime. It can also be helpful to make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary, which means keeping your work laptop and any other stress triggers away from your bed as much as possible.

When having congestive heart failure, you can take steps to improve your heart health. You should rigorously take your medications as directed by your physician, follow a low-sodium diet, stay or be physically active, and take note of sudden changes in your weight.

Also, you should live a healthy lifestyle, keep your follow-up appointments to date, and track all your symptoms. In addition, talk to your health care provider about any questions or inquiries about your medicines, lifestyle habits, or any other aspect of your treatment program. It is essential to be informed about your condition and situation.

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Modern Heart and Vascular, a preventive cardiology medical practice, has several offices around Houston. We have locations in Humble, Cleveland, The Woodlands, Katy, and Livingston.

We are Modern Heart and Vascular Institute, a diagnostic and preventative medicine cardiology practice.

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At the Modern Heart and Vascular Institute, we offer state-of-the-art cardiovascular care with innovative diagnostic tools and compassionate patient care. Our priority at Modern Heart and Vascular Institute is prevention. We help patients lead healthier lives by avoiding unnecessary procedures and surgeries.

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This article does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need cardiovascular care, please call us at 832-644-8930.

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