When a heart ceases to pump blood forcefully or when it weakens from a number of different causes, the condition is known as congestive heart failure.
Symptoms of congestive heart failure include the following:
- shortness of breath, especially when Iying down;
- swelling of the tissues due to retention of water, especially in the feet and ankles
- a rapid heartbeat;
- and a bluish tinge to the lips and nails.
The congestion caused by the weak heart can affect blood flow to the whole body. Sometimes fluid collects in the lungs, and the kidneys may not be able to remove waste products adequately.
Congestive heart failure is a serious and sometimes life-threatening condition if left untreated, but one that can be improved through drug therapy and lifestyle changes. Diuretics are often prescribed to help the body excrete the excess fluid; and carefully monitored doses of digitalis may be given to strengthen the heart. A low-salt diet (to prevent further fluid retention) and rest may also be recommended. At the same time, an exercise program may be devised to help the patient get stronger when the crisis period is over. If you have further questions about congestive heart failure or to assess your own risk, see your healthcare provider. With professional help, congestive heart failure can be controlled.