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Congestive Heart Failure

The heart is a beating muscle that pumps oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the body via the circulatory system. Inside the heart are four chambers which collect blood and then redistribute it to the lungs and body. Several conditions can impair the heart’s ability to effectively circulate blood. Defects or diseases of heart muscle or valves can cause failure of the heart to maintain an adequate blood circulation. Coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, or narrowed or clogged arteries can compromise the blood vessels’ ability to efficiently deliver blood, thus increasing the workload of the heart. Any of these conditions can result in an enlarged heart with compromised function. Eventually, the failing heart cannot pump out the amount of blood that is being delivered to it. This causes pressure to build within the heart chambers and venous system, resulting in an accumulation of fluid in body tissues. This progressively worsening series of events is called congestive heart failure (CHF). As CHF progresses, swelling, or edema, often occurs in the legs and feet. Fluid may also collect in the lungs causing shortness of breath. Eventually, heart failure may affect the function of the kidneys, further increasing fluid accumulation in the body and causing additional work for the failing heart. CHF is a chronic condition with reduced life expectancy. In the case of valvular defect, surgical intervention may be required.