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This essay will discuss the causes of Congestive Heart failure and its affects on the body. Heart failure is a leading cause of illness and death in the American population today. Many other debilitating diseases or conditions can present themselves due to Congestive Heart Failure. This spectrum of diseases or conditions can weaken the body until the afflicted person can no longer function, and the quality of life is greatly impaired.
There are many symptoms of congestive heart failure. These include shortness of breath (dyspnea), chronic coughing or wheezing, increased heart rate (tachycardia-100 beats per minute or more), elevated blood pressure, edema, cyanosis, profuse sweating (diaphoresis), anxiety or confusion due to hypoxia, increased sodium level, muscle weakness, fatigue, lack of appetite, and nausea.
Shortness of breath (dyspnea) may be caused by blood backing up or pooling in the pulmonary veins (Pulmonary edema) because the diseased heart cannot manage the supply of blood. Since the pulmonary veins return blood from the lungs to the heart, this can cause fluid to leak into the lungs, which reduces the ability to exchange air and causes shortness of breath during activity. This shortness of breath can occur when sleeping or lying flat (Orthopnea). eMedcine Health website explains, "Pulmonary edema is due to left heart failure, in which pressure backs up into the blood vessels of the lungs, but some patients also have associated right heart failure. In right heart failure, the pressure backs up in the veins of the body, and fluid accumulation can occur in the feet, ankles, and legs as well as any other dependent areas like the sacrum, if the patient sits for prolonged periods of time." The diagnosis may be revealed as in the following from Emergency Care 11th edition, "Listening to a patient's lungs with a stethoscope may reveal crackling or bubbly lung sounds called crackles or rales. Some patients cough up blood tinged sputum from the lungs." Coughing and wheezing is also a symptom of excess fluid build-up in the lungs.
Increased heart rate, also called Tachycardia is caused by the heart attempting to beat faster to try to make up for the lack of blood flow. Tachycardia is described in Emergency Care 11th edition as, "a rapid pulse of 100 beats per minute or more." This increased heart rate gives the patient a feeling of a racing or throbbing heart, also called palpitations. Other complications may arise if heart rate is not returned to normal.
Elevated blood pressure can create changes in the heart. As stated on WebMD, "Uncontrolled and prolonged elevation of blood pressure (BP) can lead to a variety of changes in the myocardial structure, coronary vasculature, and conduction system of the heart. These changes in turn can lead to the development of left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH), coronary artery disease, various conduction system diseases, and systolic and diastolic dysfunction of the myocardium, which manifest clinically as angina or myocardial infarction, cardiac arrhythmias (especially atrial fibrillation), and congestive heart failure (CHF)." The patient must be sure to take their blood pressure medication on a regular basis to avoid further damage to the heart. High blood pressure is a leading cause of CHF and heart attacks. Uncontrolled high blood pressure, or hypertension, can cause two or three times higher risk of heart failure. This puts strain on the heart, which leads to the heart's chambers to weaken and grow larger.
Edema is a buildup of excess fluids in body tissues. There are two types, pulmonary edema and pedal edema. The blood supply is reduced flowing out of the heart causing pulmonary edema(left side heart failure), and blood returning to the heart backs up in the veins causing pedal edema(right side heart failure), which in turns causes fluid to build up in tissues. This condition, can lead to weakened kidneys, because they cannot keep up with the fluids retained, and additional sodium in the blood because of the retention of fluids.
Cyanosis is a blue or gray color resulting from a lack of oxygen to the body. Medline plus explains cyanosis as the following; usually, the oxygen saturation of the blood has to drop from the normal level of nearly 100% to below 90% before cyanosis occurs. The coloration of the skin is caused by the amount of pigment in the skin and the blood flowing through it. Blood that is saturated with oxygen is bright red. Blood that has lost its oxygen is dark bluish-red. People whose blood is low in oxygen tend to have a bluish color to their skin." This is true for people who have CHF, because of fluid in the lungs or poor air exchange.
Profuse sweating may be related to the patient's physical activity level. However, sweating is also a warning sign of heart attack. According to WebMd, "sweating is due to an activation of the symptomatic nervous system with a "fight or flight" response. This is why sweating is often associated with heart attacks. Sweating is one of the main symptoms that cause heart attack victims to seek medical attention. Sweating during physical activity or in hot weather is healthy. When individuals begin perspiring while experiencing discomfort in their chest, arm, neck or jaw -- with little or no exertion -- it could be the onset of a heart attack." Sweating may be one of the most common symptoms of heart attack in both men and women.
"Anxiety or confusion due to hypoxia is the inadequate supply of oxygen to the brain and other tissues caused by poor oxygen/carbon dioxide exchange" as described in Emergency Care 11th Edition. Hypoxia occurs because of the pulmonary edema associated with CHF.
Increased sodium level occurs when the blood flow is impaired. The muscles, organs, and brain are not receiving the normal supply of blood, but instead receive increased amounts of sodium because fluids are retained in the body. Increased sodium level can lead to, confusion, disorientation, memory loss and impaired brain function.
This array of symptoms leads to general tiredness and low energy, lack of appetite and nausea. Reduced blood flow, edema and increased sodium levels cause a feeling of fatigue and muscle weakness. The heart cannot keep up with the demand for blood flow. Labored breathing while asleep and awake, also add to this feeling of fatigue. Impaired blood flow through the body, causes the digestive system to receive less oxygen. This can lead to digestive problems and a lack of interest in food.
The causes of CHF vary as much as the symptoms. The term "heart failure" means, to many people, that the heart no longer works. Most people experience difficulty with their hearts and lose some function as they age. However, other factors also lead to more serious heart issues, which then evolve into congestive heart failure or heart attack. Causes also include High Cholesterol or Coronary Artery Disease Acute Myocardial Infarction, and severe lung disease.
High Cholesterol or coronary artery disease also leads to heart failure. Cholesterol and other fatty deposits block the blood vessels, reducing blood flow.
Previous heart attacks or acute myocardial infarctions can also lead to CHF. This weakens the heart and leaves permanent damage and scar tissue, which makes the heart less effective. Emergency Care 11th edition defines acute myocardial infarction as "the condition in which a portion of the myocardium dies as a result of oxygen starvation."
Severe lung disease is another contributor to CHF. Poor lung function creates a lack of oxygen in the blood, causing the heart to compensate.
A patient who has diabetes is more at risk for CHF. Many people have a condition called metabolic syndrome, which includes overweight, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. All of these factors put a patient at a severe risk of CHF.
Congenital heart disease, which is present at birth, such as abnormal heart valves, patent foramen ovale, or abnormal heart rhythm and some genetic defects, are a variety of causes of CHF. These can result from disease or infection, and heart muscle disease, or substance abuse of the mother. There are many other conditions which lead to CHF, including anemia, and overactive thyroid gland.
Many Americans engage in high-risk lifestyles that can lead to increased instances of CHF. Having knowledge of the symptoms will help them understand what to look for in their own bodies. Identification and early treatment of the disease are important to enjoy a longer life. Once damage occurs to the heart, it cannot be cured, only managed. That is why early diagnosis is very important. Most people with CHF must rely on medications, which regulate the heart and blood flow, reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, and reduce fluids in the body, for the rest of their lives. An increased dependence on medication, and possibly surgery may also be necessary in cases of heart attack or artery blockage. This condition will also affect a patient's lifestyle. They will be advised to exercise, lose weight, stop smoking, limit alcohol, and modify their diet. Many patients will find they are less physically active, or unable to participate in activities they enjoyed before, such as sports, walking and other forms of exercise. This is due to shortness of breath, tiredness, and a lack of enough oxygen in the blood to provide enough oxygen to the lungs. Some will become depressed because they are unable to do things that once were no effort. With a controlled diet, moderate exercise, and attention to symptoms, however, many patients can return to their previous lifestyles.
In conclusion, Congestive Heart Failure is one of the most serious health issues facing Americans today. Americans face ongoing health issues with their bodies, due to unhealthy lifestyles and obesity. It is so important to understand the symptoms of the disease, and what can be done to prevent them. Education and lifestyle changes are the keys to avoiding CHF.