Congestive Heart Failure

What Is Congestive Heart Failure?

Congestive heart failure, also called heart failure or cardiomyopathy, is a chronic condition in which your heart cannot pump blood as efficiently as before. It can leave your heart muscle weak and damaged, but luckily it can be managed successfully.

What Are the Symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure?

Most of the time, if you have heart failure, you probably have another heart condition such as a heart valve problem or a rhythm disorder. However, these symptoms can indicate congestive heart failure:

  • Coughing or wheezing when you are active
  • Feeling out of breath when you lie down flat
  • Feeling short of breath when you exercise or exert yourself
  • Gaining weight rapidly
  • Swelling in your hands, feet or abdomen
  • Tiring easily or feeling weak after a small amount of effort

There are four stages of congestive heart failure:

Stage 1: Typically, no symptoms are present

Stage 2: Normal physical activity may cause shortness of breath or heart palpitations

Stage 3: Mild physical activity causes shortness of breath or heart palpitations

Stage 4: Any amount of activity causes symptoms - may even be present even when resting. 

If you experience any signs of congestive heart failure, especially if you have another heart condition, talk to your doctor right away. The heart specialists at Banner Health can determine if your symptoms are caused by heart failure.

What Causes Congestive Heart Failure?

Congestive heart failure is often brought on by other health conditions such as high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, a heart rhythm disorder or a heart valve condition

How Is Congestive Heart Failure Diagnosed?

After a physical exam, your doctor will likely order a variety of diagnostic tests to get a full picture of what is happening with your heart. These tests may include:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
  • Stress test
  • Cardiac MRI
  • Blood tests
  • Cardiac catheterization

Learn more about the diagnostic testing options offered by Banner Heath

What Is the Treatment for Congestive Heart Failure?

Our heart specialists treat heart failure with medication, such as beta-blockers or nitrates, or with a variety of medical and surgical procedures. We’ll also work with you to adopt lifestyle changes so you can better manage your condition and improve your heart health. While congestive heart failure is not curable, early detection and treatment can improve a patient’s life expectancy.

Medical procedures to help your heart stay strong longer, include:

  • Electrophysiology procedures to help your heart beat more efficiently
  • Stent placement - special tubes that keep your arteries open so that your heart gets the blood and oxygen it needs
  • Heart surgery to repair parts of your heart such as valves
  • Implantable devices to help regulate your heartbeat
  • Bypass surgery to alleviate stress on your heart
  • Valve repair and replacement
  • Heart transplant, left ventricular assist device (LVAD) and total artificial heart (TAH)

Your doctor may choose one or a combination of treatments to get the best results tailored to your needs. At Banner Health, you have a wide range of treatments available and, with our focus on research, some of the most advanced options for your care.

What If I Can’t Have a Heart Transplant?

If you can’t have a heart transplant or if you are awaiting a heart transplant, you may qualify for a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) placement or a total artificial heart (TAH). Both of these devices can be used as either a bridge-to-transplant therapy – an assist for the heart until a transplant can occur, or as a destination therapy – a long-term option for patients who are not candidates for a transplant. 

Left Ventricular Assist Device

The LVAD works by helping your heart pump and circulate blood mechanically. This takes the pressure off your heart, so you feel less tired, have fewer symptoms and breathe easier. We implant the LVAD into your heart and activate it by an attached controller that stays outside of your body.      

Total Artificial Heart 

Like a LVAD, a TAH is also controlled by a power source outside your body. It replaces the heart’s ventricles and pumps blood to and from the heart.

Your doctor will determine whether or not an LVAD or TAH is an appropriate treatment option for you based on your specific health needs and conditions.

How Do I Prevent Congestive Heart Failure?

Adopting a healthy lifestyle is the best way to prevent heart failure. If you do experience heart failure, you can also prevent further weakness by taking these steps:

  • Avoid alcohol abuse
  • Maintain a heart-healthy diet
  • Exercise moderately to stay active
  • Don’t smoke
  • Reduce your salt intake
  • Take medications as prescribed by your doctor to control other conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and chronic thyroid disorders

At Banner Health, we want you to live as long and healthy a life as possible. We offer education and support through our cardiac rehabilitation program, heart-healthy classes, and support groups. Talk to your doctor about getting the support you or your family needs.