What are the symptoms?
A number of symptoms may be associated with heart failure, however, the main symptoms are:
- Breathlessness after activity or at rest
- Feeing tired for a large part of the day and finding exercise exhausting
- Swelling of the ankles and legs
Some patients may also experience other symptoms, such as a persistent cough, a fast heart rate, or dizziness. The symptoms of congestive heart failure may develop suddenly or gradually over weeks or months.
Cause and treatment
Heart failure can be caused by a number of problems – often when they affect the heart at the same time. Common causes associated with heart failure include:
- Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) – where arteries that supply blood to the heart become blocked with fatty substances. This may also cause angina or a heart attack
- High blood pressure – may put extra strain on the heart, which over time may lead to heart failure
- Cardiomyopathy – the name given to conditions that affect the heart muscle
- Heart rhythm problems – such as atrial fibrillation
- Damage or other problems with the heart valves
- Congenital heart disease – birth defects that affect the normal function of the heart
Other factors which may also lead to heart failure include anaemia, over consumption of alcohol, an overactive thyroid or high pressure in the lungs (pulmonary hypertension).
Treatments for congestive heart failure commonly focus on managing the symptoms for as long as possible and slowing down the progression of the condition. Treatments will usually be needed for life and can include:
- Lifestyle changes – including a healthy diet, regular exercise, and stopping smoking
- Medicines – a range of medicines may be effective at treating the cause and symptoms of heart failure
- Devices implanted in the chest to help control your heart rhythm
- Surgery – such as a bypass operation or heart transplant
It can be possible to cure congestive heart failure when the cause is treatable. For example, if your heart valves are damaged, replacing or repairing them may cure the condition.