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Heart Failure ("Congestive Heart Failure")

Heart failure refers to the heart failing to pump efficiently. There are many diseases that cause this including coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, viral infections, alcohol, and diseases affecting the valves of the heart. When the heart is inefficient a number of symptoms occur depending on the cause and severity of the condition. The main symptoms are tiredness, breathlessness on exertion or lying flat, and ankle swelling. Doctors often refer to oedema, which means that there is fluid retention, usually in your feet or lungs, as a result of the heart not efficiently pumping.

Tests looking for possible causes of heart failure include:
  • Chest X-ray
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • Echocardiogram (Cardiac ultrasound)
  • Angiogram

Treatment

You are likely to have several medications over time, started and monitored by your cardiologist and GP. These include medication (diuretics) to control the amount of fluid that builds up, medication to protect your heart and slow it down, as well as medication to "thin" your blood. You will often be referred to a dietician or given advice about restricting the amount of fluid and salt you take as this can contribute to symptoms. You can also be involved in cardiac rehabilitation programmes run by trained physiotherapists. You will be given reading material to learn more about your disease. The cardiologist and your GP often share follow up for this common condition.

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