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HOUSE CALL: Congestive heart failure fastest growing cardiac disease

 


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Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a condition in which the heart stops pumping blood effectively enough to support the body and its day-to-day functions.

There are several types of congestive heart failure, with the most common being systolic heart failure, which means that the heart muscle is weakened. The second type of heart failure is diastolic heart failure, which is usually seen in older people, who have a long history of hypertension.

CHF is the fastest growing cardiovascular disease in the United States. According to the American Heart Association, there are 5.7 million Americans of all ages with congestive heart failure, with approximately 670,000 new cases each year in the U.S. It accounts for more than 34 percent of cardiovascular related deaths, and is the most frequent cause of hospitalization in patient's over 65 years of age.

You only have one heart. Therefore CHF is a serious diagnosis. It can be life-threatening if left uncontrolled, but it does not have to steal your life. Many patients diagnosed with CHF live full, wonderful lives. The key is keeping your condition under control and forming a relationship with a cardiologist that you trust and can guide you in your process for regaining your health.

The most common symptoms of CHF are shortness of breath either at rest and or with activity, swelling of the ankles and feet, and/or weight gain. A medical diagnosis is aided by routine blood tests, an EKG, chest X-ray and an echo Doppler, which is a sound wave study. There are many causes for congestive heart failure, but the most common is due to coronary artery disease and secondarily, heart rhythm disorders. 


Treatment for CHF varies and involves reducing the symptoms, treating the underlying cause of the condition and when possible, restoring the normal heart rhythm in patients. In mild cases, lifestyle modifications can help reduce the symptoms of fatigue, shortness of breath and swelling (edema). These lifestyle modifications include: change to a heart-healthy diet; if you smoke, you must stop; start a walking or swimming program and increase aerobic exercise, and reduce the stress in your life.

Treatments may also include surgery, medical device implants or procedures to normalize heart rhythms, and the use of medications to restore heart health.

Living with heart failure can be difficult, and the decisions you make or help a loved one make can be complicated. Take the necessary time with a trusted cardiologist to figure out what is best. Gaining more information and understanding how it relates to your goals and values is the best approach to regaining heart health after a diagnosis of CHF.

 

Dr. Martin Schwarze is board-certified cardiologist. He is on-staff at Missouri Baptist Medical Center and a member of BJC Medical Group. He received his medical degree from Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine and completed his fellowship training at St. Louis University School of Medicine.


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