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Congestive heart failure (simplified)

Posted Jun 21 2010 12:00am

Today's topic will be about "Congestive heart failure"

But before going to our topic, i would like to give you a simplified view for the heart. This is a simplified diagram showing the direction of flow of blood in the cardio-vascular system:

The heart is the pump in our body. It receives deoxygenated blood (blood low in oxygen) from the body systems and then pumps it to the Lungs (where blood will be oxygenated).
From the lungs, oxygenated blood will return back to the heart to be pumped to all body tissues and systems

Here is a more complex diagram:

Now its time to get into our topic "Congestive heart failure"

What is congestive heart failure ?
It is the condition when the heart is unable to perform its pumping function due to a structural or a functional heart disorder

What causes congestive heart failure ?
The defect is either in the pump or in the vessels that carry oxygenated blood to the body 

What can affect the heart (pump) ?

1. Coronary artery diseases: will lead to decreased blood supply to the cardiac muscle. So the cardiac muscles weakens and gets affected

2. Cardiomyopathy: infections, chemotherapy and drugs can lead to damage to the cardiac muscle.

3. Damaged heart valves: this will lead to abnormal circulation inside the heart and therefore the function is impaired

What can happen in the vessels and lead to heart failure ?
Hypertension (increased blood pressure) will lead to an increased resistance against the flow of blood coming out of the heart. So the cardiac muscle gets overloaded and causes damage to it on the long run. 
The term "congestive" refers to the back up of blood in the lungs, liver, abdomen and legs. 

What are the symptoms of congestive heart failure ?
1. Related to the backup of blood in:
- Lungs --> shortness of breath, cough of blood tinged mucous
- Abdomen --> ascites and abdominal enlargement

2. Rapid heart rate (a compensatory mechanism)

3. Fatique and decreased alertness (due to decreased oxygen supply to the body muscles and brain respectively)

At last, this youtube video will summarize the topic in 3 minutes. Note that it may be inappropriate as it has a live pumping heart view. Click here to watch the video  

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