Congestive heart failure

The heart is central to good health because it pumps oxygen and nutrient-rich blood everywhere the body needs it. Congestive heart failure, also known as heart failure, is when the heart doesn’t pump as efficiently as it should. It doesn’t mean the heart stops beating entirely: Instead, it means less blood is pumped, which negatively impacts the body’s normal functioning. In congestive heart failure, blood returning to the heart backs up in the veins. This forces fluid from the blood vessels into tissues in the feet and legs. The swelling that results is called edema of the feet, ankles and legs.

Sometimes the edema involves the wall of the abdomen and liver, too. Not all edema results from congestive heart failure—only a doctor is qualified to make this diagnosis.

The heart’s left side receives oxygenated blood from the lungs, and then pumps it to the rest of the body. When the heart’s left side isn’t pumping as well as it should, blood backs up in the vessels of the lungs. Sometimes fluid is forced out of the lung vessels into the breathing spaces themselves. When this happens it’s called pulmonary edema, which often results in symptoms like shortness of breath and a lack of stamina. Common causes of congestive heart failure include long-standing high blood pressure, previous heart attacks and abnormalities of the heart valves.