Congestive Heart Failure

Damaged heart muscle can become so weak that it can no longer pump effectively, leading to cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure (CHF).

Coronary artery disease and heart attacks are the most frequent causes of CHF, but inherited disorders, viral infections and toxins, such as alcohol, also can cause heart muscle damage. Symptoms of CHF typically include shortness of breath, swelling of the feet and legs, abdominal swelling, fatigue, exercise intolerance, diminished appetite and depression.

Most often, medications aim to control CHF symptoms, such as the buildup of excess fluid that causes leg swelling and makes it difficult to breath. Medications can reduce fluid retention, strengthen the heart’s squeezing ability and relax blood vessels, thereby reducing the resistance to blood flow and easing the heart’s workload.

In addition, lifestyle changes, such as low-salt diets and exercise, can help control symptoms.