Encyclopedia

Heart failure

What is heart failure?

Heart failure is a condition in which normally functioning body tissues do not receive the blood and oxygen they need. The disease is also described as a weakening of the pumping function of the heart.

When this happens, the blood does not move normally through the blood vessels. The kidneys cannot regulate the sodium levels in the body due to the weakened blood flow, and therefore fluids begin to collect in the body.

Symptoms depend on which part of the body has the most reduced blood supply. As the left side of the heart begins to weaken its pumping function, fluid collects in the lungs. This extra fluid in the lungs (pulmonary congestion) makes it difficult for the airways to expand when breathing.

Breathing becomes more difficult when one is lying down or one feels short of breath.

When the pumping function of the right side of the heart weakens, then fluid begins to collect in the legs and especially in the lower part of the legs.

What are the symptoms of heart failure?

Specialists believe that signs of heart failure alone do not indicate such a condition.

However, undiagnosed people who experience more than one of the symptoms below should seek medical attention.

The most common symptom is fatigue, due to the weakened pumping function of the heart, the body diverts blood from less vital organs such as the muscles of the limbs and concentrates on providing blood to the heart and brain.

Other symptoms depend on which part has reduced blood supply:

  • Reduced blood supply to the left side of the body:

– Dyspnea

– Cough accompanied by the release of frothy sputum

  • Reduced blood supply in the right side of the body:

– Swelling of the ankles – when pressure is applied to the swelling, the finger sinks and leaves for a short time impression, if the finger does not sink, then the swelling is not from heart failure;

– Swelling of the legs;

– Enlarged liver;

– Distended stomach;

  • Reduced blood supply to both sides of the body:

– Dizziness or confusion;

– Nausea and constipation;

– Loss of appetite;

What are the causes?

The following diseases and conditions can cause heart dysfunction:

  • Diabetes and especially type 2;
  • Obesity – people who are overweight as well as those with type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to develop heart dysfunction;
  • Tobacco smoking – the risk is higher in smokers compared to people who have never smoked or quit smoking.

Heart failure treatment

The damaged pumping function of the heart cannot be restored to its normal state. Nevertheless, there are therapies that significantly improve the quality of life of those suffering from this disease by providing an opportunity to keep the patient’s condition under control, as well as to alleviate the symptoms.

Some of the treatment methods that can be applied are:

  • Stem cell therapy – research into the effectiveness of this treatment is still in its infancy. But nevertheless they give promising results. Long-term stem cell therapy improves cardiac function in rats with cardiac dysfunction.
  • The drugs most commonly used are:

– ACE inhibitors or inhibitors of the angiotensin-converting enzyme – relax the arteries and lower the pressure in them and thus facilitate the pumping heart function.

– Diuretics – help with ankle swelling. They also reduce shortness of breath caused by the accumulation of water in the lungs. With the help of diuretics, excess water and salts are removed from the body. There are three main types of diuretics – loop diuretics, potassium-sparing diuretics and thiazides.

Anticoagulants – make it harder for the blood to clot, thus preventing a possible stroke. The most commonly used anticoagulant is warfarin.

Digoxin – a drug that is used for rapid heartbeat and causes it to slow down.

Surgery

It is important to note that drug therapy is not always sufficient to maintain cardiac function within normal limits.

For this reason, surgical interventions, such as the implantation of mechanical heart support devices, become necessary in many cases.

One of the main devices used in heart failure are cardioverter-defibrillators. They are used to protect the patient from sudden cardiac arrest.

This type of device is able to monitor the patient’s heart rhythm and react automatically in case of dangerous arrhythmias, such as biliary fibrillation.

Cardioverter-defibrillators can administer electrical impulses that restore a normal heart rhythm and prevent the patient from dying.

Another important device used in the treatment of heart failure is the dual chamber pacemaker. This device helps the heart maintain its proper rhythm.

A dual-chamber pacemaker is particularly useful in cases where the heart cannot synchronize the activity of its two atria and chambers.

The device monitors the heartbeat and automatically generates electrical signals that stimulate the heart to contract in a coordinated manner.

Although cardioverter-defibrillators and dual-chamber pacemakers are very effective, they are not suitable for all heart failure patients.

There are cases when the disease is so severe and long-lasting that medication and cardiac support devices are not enough.

In these situations, a heart transplant becomes the only real option to save the patient’s life.

Heart transplantation is a complex and demanding procedure, but it can provide a new opportunity for people who suffer from severe heart failure.

The procedure involves replacing the patient’s damaged or non-functioning heart with a healthy organ from a donor. The selection of a compatible donor and the preparation of the patient for transplantation are critical steps in this process.

After a successful heart transplant, the patient must undergo a strict regimen of monitoring and treatment to prevent rejection of the new organ and other complications.

Despite the difficulties and risks associated with a heart transplant, it can change a person’s life and give them the opportunity to live a longer and better life.

In case of severe failure, a heart transplant offers hope for improving the quality of life and prolonging it.

All these methods require an individual approach and cooperation between the patient and the medical team to achieve the best recovery and result.

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