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Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive Heart Failure
Congestive Heart Failure
Causes and Risk Factors

Congestive heart failure
While people today are experiencing increased longevity and surviving catastrophic events such as heart attacks, the unintended consequence has been an upsurge in Congestive Heart Failure (CHF). CHF affects around 400,000 people annually. Risk increases with age, but it can also be exacerbated by conditions such as artery disease and high blood pressure. So what characterizes CHF, and how does it affect the heart? Why is it different than a heart attack?

What is congestive heart failure?
Essentially, the heart is the body's pump, cycling and moving blood throughout the circulatory system. When this pump malfunctions, heart failure occurs. When the heart can no longer do its pumping job correctly, CHF occurs.

Congestive heart failure differs from heart attack in that the heart doesn't actually stop completely, but performs less efficiently. This can deprive organs and tissues of the amounts of blood needed for healthy function. "Congestive" is part of the description since blood from the heart backs up into the lungs.

Types of congestive heart failure
There are two main types of heart failure. Either failure can create a backup of fluid in the lungs and other parts of the body. The heart tries to compensate by making the ventricles bigger (dilation), or by building up the heart walls (hypertrophia).

Systolic - The heart cannot push enough blood from its compartments (ventricles) to meet the body's demand.

Diastolic - Blood backs up in the ventricles and blood vessels when the heart muscle doesn't rest between beats.

Other common types of heart failure include:

Acute - A sudden event impeding normal heart function.

Chronic - Persisting symptoms over a gradual period of time.

Left-sided - The most common CHF type. Indicated by a shortness of breath due to fluid accumulation in the lungs.

Right-sided - Fluid collects in the abdomen and lower limbs, causing swelling, often in conjunction with left-sided failure.

What causes congestive heart failure?  Learn more about the medical conditions and risk factors that can lead to the development of congestive heart failure in the section that follows.  More on causes of congestive heart failure here.

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