(Congestive) Heart Failure
Many people mistakenly believe that heart failure means that the heart has stopped or is about to stop. According to the Center for Heart Failure and the Heart Failure Society of America, heart failure (or congestive heart failure) simply means that the heart is not pumping blood through the body as well as it should.
Symptoms of heart failure can sometimes be hard to identify. They can include difficulty breathing, fatigue, and—in more severe cases—congestion in the lungs and swelling of the legs and feet. That is why heart failure is sometimes called congestive heart failure.
What is the Staging System and How Does It Work?
The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association developed a staging system to identify patients during the course of their heart disease. The staging system includes specific treatments targeted to each stage, which can improve symptoms and chances of survival from heart failure. Understanding the staging system can help you have a meaningful conversation with your health care provider as you plan your care.
Doctors classify the severity of patients with heart failure in Stage C or D according to how severe their symptoms are. The most common classification system, the New York Heart Association (NYHA) Functional Classification, places patients in one of four categories based on how much they are limited by their heart failure symptoms during physical activity.
What causes heart failure?
Heart failure often occurs when another problem or disorder makes the heart weak or stiff so it doesn't pump or relax normally. The most common cause of heart failure is a heart attack. Other causes of heart failure include:
The heart squeezes (contracts) and then relaxes with each heartbeat. When the heart does not squeeze well, this is called systolic dysfunction. When the heart is stiff and does not relax well, this is called diastolic dysfunction. Patients can have systolic dysfunction, diastolic dysfunction or both.
One way to measure the heart’s ability to contract is by checking its ejection fraction. The ejection fraction is the percentage of blood the heart squeezes out in one beat. A normal ejection fraction is between 50 and 70 percent. A low ejection fraction is often less than 35-40 percent.
What Are The Symptoms of Heart Failure?
Common symptoms of heart failure include:
For more information regarding heart failure or to obtain a consultation, please contact the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at 312-NM-HEART (664-3278) or request a first time appointment online.