What is Congestive Heart Disease

Congestive heart disease, otherwise known as congestive heart failure, is a very serious medical condition where the heart is not able to pump enough blood to keep the body's other organs supplied with adequate oxygen and nutrition. This happens when the heart muscle has been weakened by narrowed arteries leading to the heart which are no longer supplying the heart muscle itself with enough blood, scar tissue resulting from a heart attack, diseased heart tissue, heart muscle defect or infection. The heart is still pumping, but not with the efficiency it should, so the rest of the body suffers.

The blood flow from the heart slows down because of the heart's inability to pump efficiently, causing a back up of blood on the other side of the heart. This can cause swelling, or congestion, in the tissues. Many people with congestive heart disease experience swelling in their lower body, but some also experience congestion of the lungs. While this swelling and congestion is happening, the kidneys also begin to fail in their efficiency, so the body stops filtering out sodium the way it should. This leads to more swelling, called edema.

Several risk factors for cardiovascular disease have been identified. They are age, family history of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.

People who have congestive heart disease need to follow a heart disease prevention diet consisting of whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables, lean meats and a limited amount of heart healthy fats such as olive oil. They also need to get enough rest, alter their activities to suit their limited abilities, and follow their doctor's instructions. Most likely you will be on several prescription medications to manage your condition, including ACE inhibitors, beta blockers, digitalis, and diuretics. As with all heart conditions, early detection and treatment is key to survival. If you suspect you may have congestive heart disease, you should get to a doctor immediately. 

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