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Heart Failure

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Heart Failure

Heart failure occurs when the heart is not pumping as well as it should be, and thus cannot deliver blood to the rest of the body. A human body is dependent on the heart in order to deliver oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the body’s cells. If the body’s cells are not nourished properly, the body cannot function the way it normally should. When the heart does not supply the body’s cells with enough blood, everyday activities become much harder. Tasks such as climbing stairs or even walking can cause fatigue and shortness of breath. Heart failure affects nearly five million Americans currently and 550,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. Heart failure is a very serious condition that can be managed properly when recognized and treated with various medications and healthy lifestyle changes.

Heart failure can involve either the left or right side of the heart, or both sides. In most cases, the left side is usually affected first. Each side has two chambers-the atrium and the ventricle. The atrium’s job is to receive blood into the heart and the ventricle’s job is to pump the blood to the necessary and appropriate places that it needs to go. If the atrium or the ventricle loses their ability to keep up with the amount of blood blow, heart failure is a likely result.

Heart failure does not develop quickly; it is usually a chronic disease. Heart failure is a long-term condition that becomes increasingly worse as more and more time passes by. Before heart failure can be diagnosed, the heart has probably lost a lot of its pumping capacity slowly over time. The heart does several things to make up for this in the short run such as enlarging, developing more muscle mass, and pumping faster. As the heart chamber enlarges, it stretches further and therefore can contract more forcefully which leads to pumping more blood. When the contracting cells of the heart enlarge, there is an increase in muscle mass. Initially, this allows the heart to pump more strongly. The heart begins to pump faster in an effort to increase the heart’s output. In order to compensate for the heart’s slow pumping, the body does several things. In an attempt to make up for the heart’s loss of power, the blood vessels narrow to keep blood pressure up. The body directs blood to the most vital organs including the heart and the brain and away from the lesser important organs and tissues. The attempts that the heart and body make in order to cover the problem of heart failure do not work. It explains why people are not aware of their own heart failure until years after the problem first arises. The heart and body can only keep up for so long and one then starts to experience breathing problems and fatigue.

There are numerous common signs and symptoms that arise along with heart failure. One of the main symptoms is shortness of breath, also called dyspnea. This is when blood backs up in the pulmonary veins, because the heart cannot keep up with the supply, which causes fluid to lead into the lungs. Someone with heart failure displays this usually during some type of activity but can also exhibit dyspnea during rest. They often have a difficult time breathing while lying flat and may need to be propped up; they also often feel tired, anxious, restless, and have a hard time sleeping through the night. Another symptom is persistent coughing and wheezing, which is a result from fluid building up in the lungs. This coughing produces white or pink blood-tinged mucus. Another symptom is the buildup of excess fluid in body tissues. As blood flow out of the heart slows, blood returning to the heart through the veins backs up, causing fluid to build up in the tissues. The kidneys are less able to dispose of sodium and water, also causing fluid retention in the tissues. People with heart failure may experience swelling in the feet, ankles, legs or abdomen or weight gain. They may find that their shoes feel tight. Another sign or symptom is tiredness or fatigue. The heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the needs of body tissues. The body diverts blood away from less vital organs, particularly muscles in the limbs, and sends it to the heart and brain. People with heart failure may experience a tired feeling all the time and difficult with everyday activities, such as shopping, climbing stairs, carrying groceries or walking. Another symptom is lack of appetite or nausea. The digestive system receives less blood, causing problems with digestion, which leaves a feeling of being full or sick to their stomach. Another common symptom is confusion or impaired thinking. Changing levels of certain substances in the blood, such as sodium, can cause confusion, memory loss, and feelings of disorientation. Another symptom is an increased heart rate; as the heart tries to make up for the weak pumping capacity the heart beats faster. This can result in a feeling of heart

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