Heart failure is a progressive, chronic condition in which its muscle is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs for blood & the oxygen.
At 1st the heart tries to make up for this by:
- Enlarging. Its stretches to contract more strongly & keep up with the demand to pump more blood. Over time this causes the heart to become enlarged.
- Developing more muscle mass. The increase its muscle mass occurs because the contracting cells of the get bigger. This lets its pump more strongly, at least initially.
- Pumping faster. This helps to increase the heart’s output.
The body also tries to compensate in different ways:
- The blood vessels are much narrow to keep our blood pressure up, trying to make up for the heart’s loss of power.
- The body diverts blood away from less important tissues & organs (like the kidneys), the heart & brain.
These temporary measures mask the problem of its failure, but they don’t solve it. Its failure continues & worsens until these compensating processes no longer work.
Eventually, the body & failure just cannot keep up, & the person experiences the fatigue, breathing problems or any other symptoms that usually prompt a trip to the doctor. The compensation of body mechanisms helps explain why some people may not become aware of their condition until a few years after it begins to decline.
Its failure can involve the left side of the heart, right side or both sides. However, it usually affects the left side first.
Types of Heart Failure:
There are 3 most common types……
Left sided heart Failure
The heart’s pumping action moves oxygen-rich blood as it travels from the lungs to the left atrium, then on to the left ventricle, which pumps it to the rest of the body. The left ventricle supplies most of its’s pumping power, so it’s larger than the other chambers & essential for normal function. In the left-sided or left ventricular (LV) its failure, the left side of it must work harder to pump the same amount of blood. There are 2 types……. Drug treatments are different for the 2 types.
- Heart failure with the reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF), also called the systolic failure: The left ventricle loses its ability to contract normally. It cannot pump maximum force to push enough blood into circulation.
- Heart failure with the preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF), also called the diastolic failure (or diastolic dysfunction): The left ventricle loses its ability to relax normally (because the muscle has become stiff). It cannot properly fill with the blood during the resting period between each beat.
Right sided Heart Failure
The heart’s pumping action moves “used” blood that returns to its failure through the veins through the right atrium into the right ventricle. The right ventricle then pumps the blood back out of it into the lungs to be replenished with oxygen.
Right ventricular (RV) or Right-sided heart failure usually occurs as a result of left-sided heart failure. When the left ventricle of its fails, increased fluid pressure is, in effect, transferred back through our lungs, ultimately damaging the right side. When the right-side pumping power, loses, blood backs up in the body’s veins. This usually causes swelling or congestion in the legs, ankles & swelling within the abdomen such as the GI tract & liver (causing ascites).
Congestive Heart Failure
Congestive heart failure (CHF) is another type of its failure which requires the seeking timely medical attention, although sometimes the 2 terms are used interchangeably.
As blood flow out of it slows, blood returning to it’s through the veins backs up, causing congestion in the body’s tissues. Often swelling (edema) results. Most often there’s swelling in the legs & ankles, but it can happen in other parts of the body, too. Sometimes fluid collects in the lungs & interferes with breathing, causing shortness of breath, especially when a person is lying down. This is called pulmonary edema & if left untreated can cause respiratory distress.