Understanding Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)

By: Dr. Khalid Sabha, MD

Congestive Heart Failure occurs when your heart muscle becomes weakened or damaged, leading to an inability to pump blood efficiently. As a result, fluid can build up in the body, causing symptoms such as swelling, shortness of breath, and fatigue. CHF can affect either side of the heart or both.


Several factors can contribute to the development of CHF, including:

  1. Coronary Artery Disease (CAD): Blockages in the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle can weaken the heart over time.
  2. High Blood Pressure (Hypertension): Uncontrolled high blood pressure can strain the heart and lead to CHF.
  3. Cardiomyopathy: Conditions that affect the heart muscle, such as infections, alcohol abuse, or genetic factors, can cause CHF.
  4. Heart Valve Disorders: Malfunctioning heart valves can disrupt blood flow and contribute to heart failure.
  5. Other Health Conditions: Diabetes, obesity, thyroid disorders, and certain medications can increase the risk of CHF.


The symptoms of CHF can vary from person to person but may include:

  1. Shortness of breath, especially during physical activity or when lying down flat on your back (orthopnea).
  2. Persistent coughing or wheezing.
  3. Swelling in the legs, ankles, feet, or abdomen.
  4. Fatigue and weakness.
  5. Rapid or irregular heartbeat.
  6. Reduced ability to exercise.
  7. Sudden weight gain due to fluid retention.


Diagnosing CHF typically involves a combination of medical history review, physical examination, and diagnostic tests. These may include blood tests, imaging tests (such as echocardiogram), electrocardiogram (ECG), and stress tests to evaluate heart function and identify any underlying conditions contributing to CHF.


  1. Treatment for CHF aims to relieve symptoms, improve heart function, and prevent the condition from worsening. Common treatment options include:
  2. Medications: Your doctor may prescribe medications to help the heart pump more effectively, control blood pressure, reduce fluid buildup, and manage underlying conditions.
  3. Lifestyle Changes: Adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle can significantly improve CHF management. This includes maintaining a balanced diet low in sodium, staying physically active within your limits, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol intake, and managing stress.
  4. Medical Devices: In some cases, medical devices such as pacemakers or implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) may be recommended to regulate heart rhythm and function.
  5. Surgical Interventions: In severe cases, surgery such as coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) or heart valve repair or replacement may be necessary to improve heart function.


  1. Living with CHF requires ongoing self-care and management. It’s essential to:
  2. Follow your treatment plan: Take medications as prescribed, attend regular follow-up appointments, and communicate openly with your healthcare team about any concerns or changes in your condition.
  3. Monitor your symptoms: Keep track of your weight, blood pressure, and symptoms regularly and report any significant changes to your healthcare provider.
  4. Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Eat a balanced diet, stay physically active within your limitations, avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, and manage stress effectively.


While CHF can be a serious condition, it’s manageable with the right treatment, lifestyle adjustments, and support. By understanding the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options for CHF, you can take proactive steps to improve your heart health and quality of life. Remember, you’re not alone on this journey—your healthcare team is here to help you every step of the way.


His dedication to compassionate healthcare ensures a welcoming and attentive experience for all new patients. Fort Myers Primary Care and Wellness is located at 14131 Metropolis Ave, # 105, Fort Myers, Florida 33912. Call Dr. Sabha at 239-922-0909 to make an appointment today.


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