Congestive Heart Failure: What Is It and What Can I Do About It?

Chances are that you’ve heard the term “congestive heart failure.” But you may not really understand what it is. In this report, Dr. Lee Surkin, a cardiologist and sleep medicine specialist, explains congestive heart failure, its causes, and its symptoms.

Dr. Surkin explains that congestive heart failure is a syndrome, “a constellation of symptoms.” These symptoms include shortness of breath, being overloaded with bodily fluids (such as swelling in the lower extremities or the abdomen), difficulty in breathing, needing more pillows at night, awakening more frequently to go to the bathroom, and waking up with a noticeable shortness of breath. About 6 million people in the United States are affected by congestive heart failure.

A number of different factors can cause heart failure. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to heart failure. There are two types of heart failure, Dr. Surkin says. One involves failure of a weakened heart. The other with a strong or stiff heart muscle.

Dr. Surkin says that most common symptoms of heart failure are shortness of breath, fatigue, weakness, and signs of fluid overload in the body such as swelling of the legs, ankles, or abdomen, and difficulty breathing in bed at night.

“Heart failure is a chronic disease for which there is no cure,” Dr. Surkin explains. However, the incidence of heart failure seems to be at a plateau. This is a result of a greater level of awareness by people with heart failure symptoms and physicians who treat heart failure. There are now new treatments and medications. Watching one’s diet is an important way to manage the problem. It’s also important, Dr. Surkin points out, to understand the strong connection between heart failure and sleep apnea. People who believe they might have heart failure should always discuss their sleep with their doctors.

Dr. Lee Surkin, MD, FACC, FCCP, FASNC is a cardiologist in Greenville, North Carolina and is affiliated with multiple hospitals in the area, including Martin General Hospital and Vidant Medical Center. He received his medical degree from Drexel University College of Medicine and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He is board certified in Cardiology, Nuclear Cardiology and Sleep Medicine. He is the founder of the American Academy of Cardiovascular Sleep Medicine. The Health and Wellness Network is a featured network of Sequence Media Group.