What to Know About Congestive Heart Failure
March 23, 2022
Congestive heart failure. Such ominous words for anyone to hear. The implication that the heart is floundering and perhaps the body as well. But there is another type of heart failure, perhaps lesser known, which accounts for half of all heart failure diagnoses that predominantly affects women. It is not of a weakened or failing heart, but instead of a stiffened heart where its inability to relax appropriately causes inadequate blood circulation to the rest of the body. A diagnosis coined as heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF) or what we previously called diastolic heart failure.
Though a stiffened heart sounds less threatening, symptoms are just as disruptive to everyday life by affecting our breathing and exercise capacity. Common symptoms include shortness of breath, feet swelling and weight gain but can also include weakness, fatigue, abdominal distention, nausea and poor appetite. These symptoms are commonly attributed to other problems and by mistakenly doing so, we delay appropriate care.
We must not forget that heart failure is preventable. A strong heart starts with living a balanced, healthy lifestyle. Exercising for 150 minutes a week can improve not only symptoms of heart failure but also reverse the impaired relaxation of the heart. Exercise has the added benefit of decreasing blood pressure, improving our body’s glycemic control and losing weight – all of which further lower the stress on our hearts.
Chances are you know someone with congestive heart failure, as over 6 million people in the United States are diagnosed with this condition. The lifetime risk of developing heart failure is 1 in 5 people. The best treatment for heart failure is prevention. By watching what we eat, drink, and do, we can improve our overall cardiovascular health and avoid the onset of heart failure.
About the Author: Felice Lin, MD, is fellowship trained in advanced heart failure, heart transplant, and cardiovascular care and provides services at University Cardiovascular Center. Dr. Lin holds a faculty appointment with University of California, San Francisco in the UCSF Fresno Department of Internal Medicine.