Alternative Names: Cardiac Insufficiency
Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a serious condition in which the heart is not pumping well enough to meet the body's demand for oxygen. This condition has its name due to the heart failing to pump efficiently, which often results in congestion of the lungs. As a result, the heart tries to overcompensate for the problem, which only makes the problem worse.
According to statistics from the American Heart Association, 550,000 new cases of CHF are diagnosed in the United States every year, including 1% of people over the age of 65. Of all newly diagnosed patients, 50% of CHF patients die within 5 years of diagnosis. Males and females appear to be affected about equally, but somewhat more women die from the condition.
The initial symptoms of CHF, such as swelling of the ankles, seems so minor that patients may not seek treatment until significant heart damage has already been done.
A number of different conventional treatments may be prescribed. These include medications such as diuretics and invasive procedures such as a balloon angioplasty with coronary stenting. Severe cases may require surgery.
Edema of the ankles is a common manifestation of failure of the right ventricle related to both venous congestion and salt and water retention. Those experiencing constant or worsening swelling of the feet or legs should see a doctor for a heart evaluation.
Due to weakened heart muscles, blood supply to the kidneys may be reduced, which in turn impairs their ability to excrete salt and water. As a result the body retains more fluid, some of which may accumulate in the extremities, resulting in edema of the ankles and/or feet.
The weakened heart muscles may not be able to supply enough blood to the kidneys, which then begin to lose their normal ability to excrete salt (sodium) and water. This diminished kidney function can cause the body to retain more fluid.
Congestive heart failure leads to reduced blood supply to the kidneys, which leads in turn reduced kidney function, and in turn excess fluid retention (edema). The lungs may become congested with fluid (pulmonary edema) and thus the ability to exercise is decreased.
Renal insufficiency due to underperfusion from a failing heart is more widespread than commonly thought.
Congestive heart failure occurs in about 7% of symptomatic patients with hemochromatosis. If untreated, patients may develop an acute onset of severe congestive heart failure with rapid progression to death.
A study found that elderly people who drank at least 1.5 drinks per day had a risk of heart failure 47% lower than abstainers, regardless of age, race, blood pressure, history of diabetes, smoking and other factors.
Studies do not justify advising lifelong nondrinkers to start drinking for health, especially because most have good reasons for abstaining. People with liver disease or a history of alcohol abuse should not drink at all, while those with diabetes and hypertension may partake in light alcohol consumption.
In a sample of 1,011 patients with stage II cardiac insufficiency, a standardized hawthorn extract containing 84mg of oligomeric procyanidins improved ejection fraction and resting pulse rate, and produced a reduction in cardiac arrhythmias. Duration of the study was 24 weeks. [Eur J Heart Fail 2000;2(4): pp.431-7]
Clinical trials with an extract (WS 1442) have successfully demonstrated improved cardiac function and improved quality of life primarily in patients with early stage CHF. For the treatment of early stage CHF, the effective daily dosage of WS 1442 (standardized to 18.75% oligomeric procyanidins) has ranged from 160-900mg per day, divided into 2-3 doses. Benefit has been shown in the 160-480mg per day range. [Fortschr Med 1996;114: pp.291-6]
Potassium-sparing diuretics such as Aldactone or Dyrenium help the body to retain potassium and are often used in congestive heart failure patients, often along with the other two types of diuretics. They do not significantly lower blood pressure.
Loop diuretics such as Lasix or Bumex are often used to counter congestive heart failure symptoms and are especially useful in emergencies. They do not, however, significantly lower blood pressure. Thiazide diuretics, such as Esidrix or Zaroxolyn, can be used to treat edema in heart failure.
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