Congestive Heart Failure
While the term "heart failure" makes it sound like the heart is no longer working at all, it actually means the heart isn't pumping as well as it should. Your body depends on the heart's pumping action to deliver oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood to the body's cells. With heart failure, the weakened heart can't supply the cells with enough blood. This results in fatigue and shortness of breath. Everyday activities such as walking, climbing stairs or carrying groceries can become very difficult.
Most often the heart loses its ability to stretch and contract due to heart attack, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, infection or prolonged arrhythmias. Untreated high blood pressure can result in the heart becoming stiff and thick —this is diastolic heart failure. But the most common form of heart failure is systolic heart failure, or cardiomyopathy. With cardiomyopathy, the left ventricle is flimsy and stretched out.
Either way, the heart’s inability to pump efficiently deprives the body’s vital organs of oxygen and nutrients. The heart becomes less like a pump and more like a dam. Because blood supply to the kidneys is compromised, the kidneys can’t get rid of excess salt, resulting in fluid retention in the legs and feet. Shortness of breath occurs when this excess fluid accumulates in the lungs.
Heart failure is a serious condition. But many people with heart failure lead a full, enjoyable life when the condition is managed with medications and healthy lifestyle changes. It's also helpful to have the support of family and friends who understand your condition.
Living with Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)
The Heart Failure Clinic at the Prairie Heart Institute at St. John's Hospital is committed to helping CHF patients improve their quality of life through both education and encouragement. Heart Failure Clinic educational materials include: