Congestive Heart Failure is the inability of the heart to pump out all the blood that returns to it. This results in blood backing up in the veins that lead to the heart and sometimes in fluid accumulating in various parts of the body.
The heart has four chambers – the two upper chambers are the left and right atria, and the two lower chambers are the left and right ventricles. The right side of the heart pumps blood from the body to the lungs for oxygen; whereas, the left side pumps blood from the lungs to the body. Damage to the heart can decrease its ability to pump as well as it should. This is called Congestive Heart Failure (CHF).
In CHF, the right side of the heart, the left side, or both, may not pump all the blood out of the heart. This can lead to fluid backing up in the lungs or in the body - usually the legs. Usually your body can adjust for this fluid, and medications will help. But sometimes the fluid gets to be too much, leading to increased leg swelling, and/or shortness of breath or CHF exacerbation.
Many medications can be used to treat CHF. It is also important to eat a nutritious diet while restricting sodium intake, and to weight yourself every day to monitor fluid build-up.
Click here for more details about CHF in our comprehensive educational handbook on Congestive Heart Failure.