What is congested heart failure or (CHF)? To fully understand what it is, we have to exam each part of the disease. Simply put, the heart doesn’t pump blood effectively. For every beat the healthy heart does the CHF heart pumps 3 times, for the same volume of blood. The extra workload the heart undergoes causes the heart to build muscle. Just as every bodybuilder knows the harder the muscle works, the more it grows as it attempts to adapt. The heart gets bigger; you may have heard the term enlarged heart. That is congested heart failure.
Since we are on subject of the heart, we will stick with the heart. The heart is enlarged due to its increased workload it has to do due to its inefficiency. The pump itself doesn’t work well therefore the blood backs up in the circulatory system. The place that is most noticeable is the swelling in the legs. Leg swelling is defined as edema and nurses gauge the level of swelling as 1+, 2+, or 3+. Swelling can get so severe as to limit the ability to walk. TENS stockings are used to reduce this swelling and promote blood flow back to the heart. The swelling is caused by the water in the blood sitting idle in the blood stream for too long and leaks into the surrounding tissue.
The blood pools all over the body, it is just visibly noticeable in the legs. The pooling happens everywhere and edema can happen everywhere. The next noticeable area that water pools in the blood is in the lungs. As the heart attempts to pump the blood a backlog occurs just like a traffic jam of a highway. The heart and lung are interconnected what happens to the one generally happens to the other. As the blood pools in the lungs, water leaks out into the air sacs. Air sacs are very tiny sacs of air in the lungs that are very spongy. They are there to exchange oxygen for carbon dioxide in respiration and due to their sponginess they end up being able to absorb and hold water. The water leakage into the lungs is known as pulmonary edema. This causes people to be short of breath and have a congested cough and can have a pink frothy spit (sputum). Early on in congested heart failure the lungs can heal itself but as time progresses and as the damage spreads to multiple organs it becomes incurable, so it becomes important to control the disease.
With all this extra water pooling causing the swelling, the doctors have a great way of taking off the extra water and thus controlling the symptoms. Doctors will generally give you a “water pill” which is a medicine known as Lasix or Furosemide. People call it a water pill because the medicine makes you urinate or “pee”. When the doctor changes your dose or puts you on the medicine for the first time, blood work is needed to determine your kidney function. The greater the kidney damage the more medicine is needed to work. After the medicine is started doctors will want you to monitor your urine output as accurately as possible and yes it means you need to measure your “pee”. As the medicine works and it may take a few days to get full effect, you will notice all the swelling going down and breathing getting easier.
Congestive heart failure is exactly as it sounds. Congested due too all the water backing up in the pipes and heart failure due to the heart not working well since the pump doesn’t work. I have said it before and I’ll say it again prevention is the key to saving your skin. Quit smoking and start to exercise and you may reduce your cardiac risk of developing congested heart failure.