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An Overview Of Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive heart failure is a condition that slowly progresses over time, affecting your heart's pumping power. Congestive heart failure is also often referred to as simply heart failure. As the disease progresses, and fluid builds up, this stage is known explicitly as congestive heart failure.


How common is heart failure?


Heart failure is the leading cause of hospitalization in people who are older than 65 years. It is considered that about 2% of the population suffers from heart failure.


What are the types of heart failure?


Based on the main part of the heart where the pumping action is reduced, heart failure is divided into left-sided or right-sided heart failure. Over time, left-sided heart failure may also lead to right-sided heart failure and result in a combination of both. 

  • Left-sided heart failure:


  • Heart failure with reduced left ventricular function - When the lower left chamber of your heart gets bigger and is unable to contract strong enough to pump an adequate amount of blood, this is known as heart failure with reduced left ventricular function.


  • Heart failure with preserved left ventricular function - When the lower left chamber of your heart gets thicker and stiffer than normal, it is unable to relax and expand to fill up with blood adequately. This means that every contraction of your heart pumps less blood than it should. This condition is known as heart failure with preserved left ventricular function.


  • Right-sided heart failure: Although heart failure mostly affects the left side of the heart, conditions like lung problems and issues with the other organs can also lead to right-sided heart failure. Right-sided heart failure means that your heart is weak and cannot pump ample blood to your lungs to get oxygen. 


What is congestive heart failure?


When your heart is not able to handle the blood volume, blood starts accumulating in different parts of your body.  As blood accumulates, fluid starts oozing out and builds up in the surrounding tissue. When blood accumulates in the lungs, it is known as pulmonary oedema. Fluid may also accumulate in the lower extremities or the abdomen.

What causes heart failure?


Usually, heart failure develops slowly over time. However, sudden stress like injury and medical conditions can also cause heart failure to start abruptly. Some of the conditions that can cause heart failure include:

  • Arrhythmia
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Heart attack
  • Endocarditis
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity 
  • Heart valve diseases
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Congenital heart defects
  • Blood clotting in the lung or pulmonary embolism
  • Severe lung diseases like COPD


What are the stages of heart failure?


Heart failure is divided into stages A, B. C, and D. You can read more about the features of each of these stages in our article here.

What are the risk factors for heart failure?


Although heart failure can happen at any age and for any gender, it is more common in men at a young age than in women at a young age.


1.  If you are above 65 years of age, your heart muscles may weaken and become stiff

2.  If you have a family history of heart failure, there are chances that you might have an inherited condition. You can read more about inherited heart conditions in our article here.

3.  If you have habits like smoking, smoking, eating food rich in fat, cholesterol, and sodium, having a sedentary lifestyle, or using too much alcohol or illegal drugs, your chances of developing heart failure increase significantly.

4.  Medical conditions that affect your heart can also increase the risk of developing heart failure. Apart from the causes listed above, some other conditions that can lead to heart failure include:

  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Cancer treatments
  • Sleep apnea
  • Anaemia
  • Infections like COVID-19

What are the symptoms of heart failure?


Depending on the type of heart failure, and the progress of the condition, your symptoms may be different. Symptoms are generally caused by the backing up of fluid and the effects of the fluid accumulation in different organs or parts of the body. Since heart failure is a progressive condition, initially there are mild to no symptoms.


Some of the symptoms of heart failure include:

  • Constant dry cough
  • Feeling tired or weak even after rest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty sleeping or breathing when lying flat
  • Needing to urinate often
  • The feeling of vomiting and reduced hunger
  • Swelling and weight gain from fluid in your ankles, lower legs, or abdomen
  • Swelling in your neck veins

What are the complications of heart failure?


Heart failure affects the blood flow to all the organs across your body. Because of this, heart failure has consequences that span multiple organs. Some of the common complications of heart failure include:


  • Trouble breathing because of fluid buildup in your lungs
  • Heart valve problems
  • Sudden cardiac arrest
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Kidney & liver damage
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Malnutrition


You can read more about the diagnosis and treatment of heart failure in our article here and also about cardiomyopathy in general in our article here.


DR. Alkesh Jain
Cardiac Care
Meet The Doctor
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