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Congestive Heart Failure

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Congestive heart failure is an inability of the heart to provide a sufficient amount of blood to the body. Often abbreviated as CHF, congestive heart failure can be the result of a number of chronic diseases and coronary conditions. CHF is often a progressive disease that worsens over time. Damage to the heart leading to congestive heart failure cannot be cured, but additional damage can be prevented and the progression of the heart failure can be delayed with lifestyle changes and treatment.   


Heart failure is classified as congestive when the blood flowing to the heart is more than the heart is able to expel. Symptoms can vary depending on the location of the cardiac dysfunction or damage. The heart muscles may stretch, harden or weaken to accommodate the backup of blood. As the body changes to accommodate the damage a person may feel the following symptoms:

  • Abdominal tenderness or swelling
  • Changes in heartbeat, possibly including rapid heartbeat or irregular heartbeat
  • New or worsening chest pain
  • Dry cough
  • Fatigue
  • Fluid in the lungs, sometimes accompanied with cough that produces white or pink mucus
  • Loss of appetite with bloating
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Swelling in the ankles, legs and feet
  • Wheezing

Please note, chest pain may be a sign of a heart attack and should be evaluated by a physician immediately. If you or a loved one is experiencing chest pain, please proceed to the emergency room.


Congestive heart failure is caused by the stalled flow of blood through the heart. As blood flow from the heart slows, incoming blood begins to form a bottleneck and the excess blood flows elsewhere. This is can lead to swelling in the appendages and fluid in the lungs. Congestive heart failure is often an effect of another condition, below are some of the risk factors and conditions that can lead to heart failure.

  • Abnormal heart valves
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease, both acquired conditions and congenital conditions
  • High cholesterol
  • History of heart attack
  • Hypertension
  • Kidney disease
  • Lung disease
  • Sleep apnea
  • Smoking
  • Thyroid dysfunction


Treatment for congestive heart failure typically involves diagnostic testing to best determine the cause of the cardiac dysfunction. Some causes can be cured while others can be better managed, but the damage done to the heart cannot be cured, as such it is important to seek care for congestive heart failure as soon as symptoms are present.

For many patients lifestyle changes and diet modification can make a big difference in overall cardiac health. Your surgeon and cardiologist can recommend the best treatment options for you based on their findings. 

If you have questions about congestive heart failure, please contact the Cardiac Surgery Associates of Tampa at 813.910.0027 or request an appointment online.