Heart failure

The (congestive) heart failure (CHF) is a set of manifestations when the heart cannot pump enough blood through the body to cover all metabolic processes. Fluids build up in the tissues, along with the organs not being supplied with oxygen and nutrients. 

What are the causes?

  • Coronary artery disease, especially after a heart attack (around 70 % cases)
  • High blood pressure
  • Valvular heart disease
  • Arrhythmia (abnormality of the heart’s rhythm)
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiomyopathy (heart diseases)
  • Myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle)
  • Drugs, alcohol

This condition’s incidence rises. We have around 40 000 new CHF patients in the Czech Republic every year – 200 000 Czechs suffer from it already, and it is estimated the number is twice as big. Both men and women have a 20 % chance of having heart failure throughout their life – 1 in 5 people.

What are the symptoms?

Heart failure manifests as breathlessness. First, during demanding activities – later, even during easy tasks (dressing, sitting). Other symptoms such as shortness of breath during the night, inability to lie down (using too many pillows), cough (sometimes coughing up blood) and overall fatigue might appear. Ankle, calf or thigh swelling, as well as bloated stomach, gaining weight, lack of appetite, nausea and vomiting or nighttime bathroom trips may occur. Changes in the blood flow to the brain cause memory loss, changes in thinking, confusion or depression.

What to do when…

If you notice any of these signs, see your general practitioner immediately who’ll send a request form for you to see a cardiologist. 

If the symptoms get worse to the level one can’t breathe, do not hesitate and call 155 (Czech) or 112 (EU). 

Acute heart failure is a life-threatening condition if not treated immediately.

How’s the examination?

Thorough dialogue between the patient and the doctor about the symptoms and routine physical examination (having the heart and lungs listened to with a stethoscope, checking the swellings and bloatings, ECG/EKG) is essential. Then there’s chest X-ray to see for possible built-up fluid in the lungs, heart ultrasound (echocardiography), and blood tests (BNP). Depending on the severity of the condition, a whole spectrum of other examinations might take place, such as coronarography (coronary arteries) or cardiac stress tests

What’s the treatment?

First, it’s vital to treat heart failure’s causes – high blood pressure medication, heart valve surgery, bypass surgery or artificial pacemaker. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle (no smoking, healthy weight) and taking the prescribed medication regularly is also essential to improve the patient’s health.


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