What Causes Congestive Heart Failure?

RIDGEWOOD, N.J. -- Affecting nearly 6 million adults in the United States each year, heart failure can lead to frequent hospitalizations if not properly managed.

If left untreated, congestive heart failure can have incredibly dangerous side effects.
If left untreated, congestive heart failure can have incredibly dangerous side effects. Photo Credit: The Valley Hospital

"The five-year survival rate after a heart failure hospitalization is only 20 percent, a prognosis worse than most cancer diagnoses," said Dr. Kariann Abbate, heart failure specialist at Valley Medical Group's Heart Care for Women. "However, if the disorder is properly managed by a team of skilled heart failure clinicians, prognosis and quality of life can improve."

According to the American Heart Association, the most common symptoms of heart failure include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Persistent coughing or wheezing
  • Buildup of excess fluid in body tissues
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of appetite, nausea
  • Confusion, impaired thinking
  • Increased heart rate

Alerting a health care professional to subtle changes in symptoms can prevent a heart failure hospitalization and allow patients to live a full and productive life. Signs and symptoms to monitor are:

  • Weight gain of more than three pounds in one day, or five pounds in one week
  • Swelling in ankles or other parts of the body
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty performing activities of daily living due to shortness of breath or fatigue
  • Feeling like one has "the flu"
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Chest pain

"There are many effective treatments for patients with heart failure," said Abbate. In patients with weakened hearts, implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICD), cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT), left ventricular assist devices (LVAD) or heart transplantation can help. Percutaneous coronary intervention -- also referred to as angioplasty -- or coronary artery bypass may be recommended for heart failure caused by coronary artery disease. For heart failure caused by valvular disease, valve replacement may be recommended.

To help prevent future hospitalizations, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommends taking all prescribed medications correctly and reporting any medication issues to a patient’s doctor and/or pharmacist right away. Additionally, avoiding salty foods or alcohol and minimizing the risk of respiratory infections through vaccinations can help prevent heart failure.

The Valley Hospital Transitional Care Program treats and manages heart failure patients in an outpatient setting on the hospital’s main campus. The program, which is certified by The Joint Commission, takes a multidisciplinary approach to care. The team works closely with pharmacy and palliative care staff with a strong focus on patient training and education, to empower patients to effectively manage their conditions.

For more information on the program, please call 201-447-8018.