A heart failure does not mean that the heart has stopped functioning but what is happening is that the heart is unable to pump out sufficient blood to meet the requirements of the body. The chambers in the heart may respond by expanding and carrying more blood to pump out to the rest of the body, but over a period of time the walls of the chambers will become thicker and stiffer and hence keep the blood moving. However, with time the muscles of the heart will get weaker.
Elsewhere in the body, the kidneys react by holding on to the water and salt, causing build-up of fluids, in the ankles, arms, lungs, legs, feet and other organs.
Many conditions can damage the heart and bring on heart failure.
- Coronary Artery Disease – the coronary arteries supply blood and oxygen to the heart. If these arteries narrow down due to plaque build-up, it decreases the flow of blood and the heart is being deprived of adequate quantities of oxygen and nutrients, so the heart cannot function to its optimum best.
- Heart Attack – a sudden stoppage of blood supply to the heart muscles, brings on a heart attack. All parts of the heart are cut off from its supply of oxygen. A heart attack damages the heart muscles causing the heart not to work well.
- Cardiomyopathy – a disease that damages the muscles of the heart. Artery or blood flow problems, alcohol and drug abuse, infections, other diseases and genetic issues can cause cardiomyopathy.
- Conditions that Overwork the Heart – Kidney disease, High Blood Pressure, heart defects present at birth, heart valve diseases and diabetes can all cause heart failure. It can also happen if several conditions exist all at once.
Types of Heart Failure
Systolic Heart Failure – occurs when the muscles of the heart are unable to squeeze with enough force, to pump the oxygen-rich blood through the body.
Diastolic Heart Failure – Even though the heart is able to squeeze the oxygen-rich blood out to the rest of the body, the ventricle (the main pumping chamber), does not relax, consequently lowering the amount of blood that can enter the heart. This then raises the blood pressure in the lungs, which leads to fluid collection in the lungs, legs and abdomen.
Stages of Heart Failure
Stage A – is the stage at which a patient has been identified to be at risk for heart failure. If diagnosed with any of the following, then the patient is in Stage A.
- Coronary Artery Disease
- High Blood Pressure
- Metabolic Syndrome
- Cardiotoxic Drug Therapy
- Rheumatic Fever
- Alcohol Abuse
- Family history with Cardiomyopathy
Stage B – is the phase where a patient has been diagnosed with systolic left ventricular dysfunction, even though no symptoms of heart failure were evident. In other words it means that the left lower chamber of the heart is not pumping blood as it should. Patients in stage B would have had:
- A heart attack
- Valve disease
Stage C – a patient is at Stage C, if a patient has had a systolic heart failure together with symptoms of:
- Shortness of breath
- Less ability to exercise
Stage D – a patient who has had a systolic heart failure and continues to have advanced symptoms, after getting medical care, is at this stage.