Congestive Heart Failure: A Disease of the Elderly

By: Jody Smith

Congestive heart failure (CHF) occurs when the heart isn't able to keep up in its supply of oxygen and nutrients via the bloodstream throughout the body. The heart's capacity may have been diminished by disease or injury.

Normally the heart pumps blood to the lungs to oxygenate the blood, which then comes back to the heart.

Heart attack, high blood pressure, and/or high cholesterol can damage the heart, resulting in congestive heart failure. Coronary artery disease, diabetes, and obesity can also be factors.

Leaky or narrow heart valves can contribute to CHF. Anemia and hypothyroidism may also heighten risk for congestive heart failure.

About 5 percent of people above the age of 75 have CHF, according to an article on Emedicinehealth.com. The rate jumps to 25 percent in seniors who are above the age of 85.

After one year, the death rate from CHF is approximately 10 percent. By five years, the death rate from CHF is about 50 percent.

Congestive heart failure does not mean the heart has quit working. It does mean the heart is not operating up to par, so some parts of the body will not always be getting the amount of oxygen and blood they need.

Heart failure often has a gradual slowing down effect over a number of years. However, in cases of heart attack or heart disease, heart failure can develop at a faster rate.

When heart failure occurs in the right side of the heart, the feet and lower legs will be prone to retaining fluid. Eventually swelling will spread further up the legs and into the abdomen.

Edema (puffiness from excessive fluid), especially pitting edema, can be an indicator of right heart failure. Pitting edema is swelling where pressing a finger onto a swollen leg will leave a dent temporarily.

When heart failure occurs in the left side of the heart, the lungs will collect fluid in pulmonary edema. Shortness of breath is a result, and it's hard to take in a full breath.

Activity levels may suffer significantly with congestive heart failure. Things that used to be a regular part of daily life, such as sweeping, vacuuming, and other household chores, may now be too tiring. Early indicators of CHF are shortness of breath, or a persistent cough. These symptoms may seem like a case of bronchitis, cold, or flu.

If you're prone to asthma, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) you may feel like you're just having a prolonged bout. Chest pain is not a typical symptom of congestive heart failure.

Congestive heart failure is managed with prescribed medications, including diuretics, beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, digoxin, and/or aldosterone antagonists, under the supervision of a physician.

Sources:

Congestive Heart Failure in Elderly

http://www.caring-for-aging-parents.com/congestive-heart-failure-in-elderly.html

Congestive Heart Failure

http://www.emedicinehealth.com/congestive_heart_failure/article_em.htm

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