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Heart Failure, commonly referred to as Congestive Heart Failure simply put, is the heart’s inability to sufficiently fill with blood OR it’s inability to distribute a sufficient amount of blood throughout the body.

When defining Heart Failure one must consider Blood Pressure. Blood Pressure has two gages-the systolic (the top number on the reading) which is the usual rhythmic contraction, following each dilation (diastole) during which the blood is driven onward from the chambers of the heart to the body and the diastolic (the bottom number on the reading) which is the usual rhythmic dilation, following each contraction (systole), during which the heart muscle relaxes and the chambers of the heart fill with blood.

Heart failure is categorized by which side of the heart that is affected (the right or left). Each side experiences different malfunctions and different symptoms. A patient suffers from dysfunction on one side or the other, whether the occurrence is from the relaxation (diastole-see above) or contraction (systole-see above).

A few of the common causes of Heart Failure range from Genetics, abnormal Blood Pressure, Infection, Alcohol Consumption, Anemia and Heartworms. Some are reversible with proper care and treatment while others can be fatal.

Symptoms include shortness of breath, even when lying down, a chronic cough, and general tiredness and weakness.

Diagnosis of Heart Failure includes a thorough medical history and may be followed by Blood Tests, Urine Tests, a Chest X-ray, an Echocardiogram (which helps identify Systolic Heart Failure from Diastolic Heart Failure-See above), Ejection Fraction, an Electrocardiogram, Coronary Catheterization (Angiogram), or a Nuclear Scan. Future articles will explore each of these in greater depth.

When approaching treatment personal statistics (family history, age, weight, etc.) are greatly considered. While Heart Failure cannot be completely cured, personal changes in diet or exercise may help subdue the problem. Medications such as ACE Inhibitors, Beta Blockers, or Diuretics may be prescribed. An in-depth discussion with a physician will lead a patient in the right direction for living with Heart Failure.

The American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the American Heart Association (AHA) in conjunction with the New York Heart Association (NYHA) have identified guidelines for the four stages (A thru D) and the four classifications (I thru IV) associated with Heart Failure.

While much progress is being made in the field of proper diagnosis and treatment, the complexity of the disease dictates strict attention to medical care.


By Sheryl McCormick

The American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the American Heart Association (AHA) have identified the Stages of Heart Failure. The stages are more recent and they complement the NHYA classification (See-Classifications of Heart Failure). The four stages are set up as follows: Stage A, Stage B, Stage C, and Stage D.

As stated in other articles, the signs and symptoms of Heart Failure are not always easy to detect. But with awareness of family history (genetics), personal behavior (diet, exercise regime, drug abuse, alcohol and sodium intake), and health related problems (diabetes, infection, anemia, and thyroid problems), a person may determine whether or not they may be at a high risk for Heart Failure.

Obviously those people that have a family history of high blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes, or heart problems should pay close attention to heart health. If you have a history of the aforementioned problems, or if you have a diet high in fat, abuse alcohol or drugs, or smoke, you may be a high risk candidate for Stage A Heart Failure.

Stage B Heart Failure candidates have probably never experienced symptoms of HF, but have been diagnosed with the disease. There is clear evidence of Heart Failure during diagnosis but no clear symptoms. At this point a physician may prescribe medication such as ACE Inhibitors or Beta Blockers (See-Glossary) There will be close monitoring of blood pressure (hypertension OR hypotension-See Glossary).

In Stage C, cardiac dysfunction is present, as are symptoms. Tiredness while performing simple activities like walking or bending over, are common symptoms. Shortness of breath and overall fatigue are present. In Stage C strict attention should be paid to exercise (consult your physician), eating properly (with low sodium intake) and little to no alcohol consumption.

Patients in Stage D of Heart Failure show signs and symptoms of HF even though they have undergone treatment and therapy. Monitoring of diet, exercise, and blood pressure is still adhered to during Stage D. Patients will probably be prescribed medications, depending on the person and the extent of Heart Failure. This stage is associated with surgical options (depending on severity) including, but not limited to:

  1. Placement of a conventional Pacemaker;
  2. Placement of a ventricular device such as a BiV (See-Biventricular Pacemakers May Help Heart Beat More Effectively in Advanced Heart Failure Patients)
  3. LVR (See- Left Ventricular Reconstruction Surgery a Viable Possibility for Certain Advanced Heart Failure Patients); or
  4. A heart transplant

As with all health concerns a person should consult their physician before making a self-diagnosis or practicing self-treatment. While the stages of Heart Failure aren’t always easily recognized, they can be serious and should be handled through proper diagnosis and care.

See also:

Symptoms of Heart Failure

Causes of Heart Failure

Classifications of Heart Failure

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. The Heart Failure Center does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The contents of The Heart Failure Center Site ("Content") are for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or any symptoms you may have. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.

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