Heart failure, also referred to as congestive heart failure, occurs when the heart fails to pump blood to all parts of the body. This can cause complications to arise like blood and fluid flowing back into the lungs, edema (or fluid retention in the limbs and other parts of the body), or shortness of breath.
For you to understand congestive heart failure better, it’s important to learn more about how the heart pumps blood throughout the body.
The heart has four chambers: two chambers on the right portion and two chambers on the left. The two chambers belonging to the upper portion of the heart are called atria (atrium when referring to only one) while the chambers located at the lower part are called ventricles.
Oxygen-poor blood from the veins is received by the right side of the heart. The heart then pumps this blood to the lungs where it picks up oxygen and gets rid of carbon dioxide accumulated from other parts of the body.
From the lungs, the newly oxygenated blood goes back to the heart, entering through the left side this time. From there, the heart pumps the oxygen-rich blood through the arteries where it makes the journey to the other organs in the body that need it.
Congestive heart failure occurs when the heart can’t keep up with all the blood that needs to be pumped throughout the body.
Symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure
Heart failure can either be an ongoing condition or may start suddenly.
In the early stages of heart failure, the body may try to keep up with the body’s need for oxygenated blood by:
- Stretching to strengthen the contractions of the heart in order to meet the body’s need for blood. Over time, this may result in the enlargement of the heart which can cause many health complications like heart murmur. In some cases, an enlarged heart can cause cardiac arrest.
- Initially developing more muscle mass, or;
- Pumping faster.