Congestive Heart Failure Causes

Congestive Heart Failure Causes Are Varied

There is a whole list of potential congestive heart failure causes. Therefore CHF can take on various forms. Usually…

CHF is the last stage result of heart damage from any number of heart or circulatory diseases.

Heart failure happens over time as the heart tries to adjust or compensate for abnormalities caused by these underlying conditions. The end result is a heart that is weak and unable to pump enough blood to the major organs. The kidneys, in particular become insufficiently fed. They in turn respond by retaining water and salt causing fluid build up (edema) in the rest of the body. 

Though congestive heart failure causes are great in number, the end result can be broken down into four categories and are as follows:

  • Systolic Contractile Failure, a condition of the myocardium (the middle layer of the heart wall) leading to insufficient ejection fraction (a measure of heart’s ability to contract) of the left ventricle.
  • Higher Diastolic Filling Pressures. The diastole is the time between contractions when the ventricle fills with blood.
  • Inadequate Left-Sided Output of the left ventricle, which is a general inadequacy of the left ventricle to supply blood to the body.
  • Right-Sided Dysfunction resulting in adequate blood supply to the lungs.

A List of The Most Common Congestive Heart Failure Causes

One of the most common of congestive heart failure causes is…

High Blood Pressure

Long-term hypertension is at least partly responsible for about 75% of all heart failure cases. That is, most heart failure cases begin with hypertension even in the absence of a previous heart attack

Under the pressure of long term hypertension the heart compensates by a thickening of the cardiac muscle. Over time this leads to a weakening of heart muscle contractions. The thicker muscles also do not relax as well as healthy muscles. If the muscles do not relax the heart cannot adequately fill with blood. Less blood volume in the heart coupled with weaker contractions equals a less than adequate blood supply. 

Hypertension is one heart condition that is often controllable through good diet, exercise and medication. Heart failure is only one serious condition that results from uncontrolled blood pressure. If your blood pressure is high you should make every effort to bring it under control before the cardiac damage is done. 

More On High Blood Pressure.

Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)

Coronary artery disease is next in the list of congestive heart failure causes. CAD is itself the end result of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

Atherosclerosis is the most common cause of heart attack and a major cause in heart failure.

Atherosclerosis has several causes including…

  • high levels of cholesterol
  • high triglycerides
  • high blood pressure
  • smoking
  • diabetes
  • obesity

It occurs when the arteries become coated or clogged by plaque deposits resulting in blood vessel damage, narrowing and hardening and reduced blood flow. Under these conditions the left side of the heart becomes damaged and unable to pump well. 

Ischemic coronary artery disease, with or without myocardial infarction (heart attack), is the most common of the congestive heart failure causes. Ischemia is a low oxygen state due to some obstruction of the arterial blood supply (like atherosclerosis).

A low oxygen state causes damage to the heart muscle, which is often irreversible. However, in many cases, the reestablishment of adequate blood supply will show improvement in heart muscle performance. In such cases the affected cardiac section (i.e. left ventricle) may be in a state similar to hibernation. 

Learn More About Atherosclerosis.


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Heart Attack

A heart attack and heart failure are not the same. A heart attack is a sudden failure of the heart due to long term cardiac damage from such causes as atherosclerosis. Heart failure is not a sudden failure but a slowly developing end result of one or more causes. 

When a heart attack occurs cardiac muscle is usually damaged. This damage in turn can contribute to the progression of congestive heart failure. Recovering from a heart attack, then, is a mixed blessing. It means the patient has survived the attack but is more likely to develop congestive heart failure.

Heart Valve Disease

eart valve disease is common among the congestive heart failure causes. Heart valves are basically flaps of tissue that prevent the back-flow of blood from the ventricles to the atria or from the pulmonary arteries to the ventricles. 

Normally the atria (thin walled chambers of the heart) pass blood to the ventricles (the thick, muscular heart chambers). The ventricles pump blood to the lungs and the rest of the body. 

Sometimes the valves separating the chambers from each other or the ventricles from the pulmonary arteries become damaged, narrowed or close improperly. The result is that blood can regurgitate either filling the lungs or legs and feet with excess fluid or blood.

The heart also becomes weakened over time trying to pump blood that is leaking through the valves and moving against the normal flow.

Cardiomyopathy

This is a general term designating primary disease of the heart’s muscle mass. Though it is common among congestive heart failure causes it is itself often caused by factors of unknown origin. 

Dilated cardiomyopathy involves an enlarged ventricle. The muscular walls of the ventricle (often the left ventricle which feeds the body with blood) become thin reducing pumping action. This condition is associated with genetic factors but the direct cause is often unknown. 

Research points to viral infection, such as Coxsackie virus, as the culprit. Some experts believe that the patient’s own antibodies attack the heart proteins mistaking them for foreign agents. 

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a condition in which the cardiac muscles become thick and therefore are unable to contract efficiently. Research implicates genetic influences that reduce the power of cardiac muscle cells making the heart unable to pump strongly. Like any muscle under strain, the heart muscles grow and thicken to compensate. It is a relatively uncommon condition but it has been blamed for sudden death among young athletes.

Reactive or Corrective Disorders

These are responsible for much cardiac damage and are therefore classified as congestive heart failure causes. The body responds to negative conditions in order to correct the problem. These correctives themselves become the facilitators of heart damage. For example hypertension might be the initial cause of stressing or impairing proper heart function.

  • The body responds by releasing hormones and neurochemical mechanisms in an attempt to correct the pressure and blood flow imbalances.
  • The heart enlarges to take on the increased workload…
  • Causing the heart muscles to elongate making the heart walls thinner and less efficient.
  • In addition, the cardiac muscle cells undergo changes that lead to calcium loss.
  • These corrections help to bring balance in the short term but cause the heart to work harder.

This increased cardiac load contributes to the end result of heart failure. 

Another harmful correction the body makes involves the sympathetic nervous system, which is one of the two divisions of the vertebrate autonomic nervous system. 

The autonomic nervous system is composed, in part, of neurons that are not under conscious control. It regulates key functions including…

  • Cardiac muscle activity
  • Smooth muscles (e.g., of the gut)
  • Glands

Regulating heart rhythm is one of the essential functions of this system. When the heart begins to fail in its pumping action the sympathetic nervous system releases stress hormones such as norepinephrine (a primary neurotransmitter).

The released hormones flood the heart causing it to beat more rapidly. This accelerated rhythm increases the damage to an already stressed heart.

The Renin-Angiotensin-Aldosterone System (RAAS) includes a group of hormones responsible for the dilation and constriction of blood vessels as well as the retention of fluids. The hormones involved are…

  • Rennin
  • Angiotensin
  • Aldosterone

They work together to control blood pressure. In the case of a failing heart, blood pressure may fall causing the kidneys to release renin. In the circulatory system renin is converted to angiotensin which causes the blood vessels to constrict thereby raising blood pressure. 

The presence of angiotensin also stimulates the adrenal gland to produce aldosterone, which promotes sodium and water retention by the kidneys. This in turn causes blood volume and pressure to rise. The extra work on the heart caused by blood vessel constriction causes even more damage requiring more blood vessel constriction to keep blood pressure up as the heart continues to weaken. 

The immune system also causes reactions to a failing heart that can compound the problems. As the heart fails the immune system releases certain compounds, such as cytokines (among others), designed to protect the injured areas. 

Cytokines are non-antibody proteins secreted by inflammatory leucocytes (white blood cells). High levels of cytokines are observed in patients with severe heart failure. It is suspected that cytokines can facilitate cardiac enlargement. Enlarging the heart to adjust to inadequate pumping ability adds stress to an already stressed heart thereby increasing the deterioration over the long haul. 

The previous is, of course, a partial list. There are metabolic disorders as well as infectious diseases not mentioned here which are classified among congestive heart failure causes.

Anything that stresses the heart over the long-term can promote the end condition known as CHF.

Vitamin deficiency also contributes greatly along with other causes to degrade heart health. Some treatments for CHF also work as preventive steps, especially if insufficient nutrition is a contributing factor. Prevention is the best directive. 

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Natural Congestive Heart Failure Treatments 

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