Heart Disease and Congestive Heart Failure

It is the leading cause of hospitalization in people older than 65.

What Is Heart Failure?

Heart failure means that the heart’s pumping power is weaker than normal. As a result, the heart cannot pump enough oxygen and nutrients to meet the body’s needs. The chambers of the heart may respond by enlarging to hold more blood to pump through the body or by becoming thickened. This helps to keep the blood moving, but the heart muscle walls may eventually weaken and become unable to pump as efficiently, causing the body to retain fluid (water) and salt. If fluid builds up in the arms, legs, ankles, feet, lungs, or other organs, the body becomes congested, and congestive heart failure is the term used to describe the condition.

What Causes Heart Failure?

Heart failure is caused by many conditions that damage the heart muscle, including:

  • Coronary artery disease. A disease of the arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the heart
  • Heart attack. A heart attack occurs when a coronary artery becomes suddenly blocked, stopping the flow of blood to the heart muscle. A heart attack damages the heart muscle, resulting in a scarred area that does not function properly.
  • Cardiomyopathy. Damage to the heart muscle from causes other than artery disease, such as from infections or alcohol or drug abuse.

Conditions that overwork the heart. Conditions including poorly controlled high blood pressure, valve disease, thyroid disease, kidney disease, or heart defects present at birth can all cause heart failure