Congestive Heart Failure: Signs, Symptoms and Treatment

Congestive Heart Failure: Signs, Symptoms and Treatment

What is congestive heart failure?

Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a chronic progressive condition that affects the pumping power of your heart muscles. While often referred to simply as “heart failure,” CHF specifically refers to the stage in which fluid builds up around the heart and causes it to pump inefficiently.

Causes and Risk Factors

  • Coronary artery disease
  • high blood pressure
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Conditions that overwork the heart

Signs & Symptoms

Symptoms can be mild or severe and may be infrequent. They can include:

  • congestion
  • swelling in your ankles, feet, and legs
  • shortness of breath
  • dizziness, fatigue, and weakness
  • chest pains
  • rapid or irregular heartbeats

Stages of Heart Failure

  • Stage A: High risk of developing heart failure (pre-heart failure)
  • Stage B: Diagnosed with systolic left ventricular dysfunction but never had symptoms of heart failure (pre-heart failure)
  • Stage C: Known systolic heart failure and current or prior symptoms
  • Stage D: Systolic heart failure and presence of advanced symptoms after receiving recommended care


You and your doctor may consider different treatments depending on your overall health and how far your condition has progressed. Treatment options include: medications, lifestyle changes (diet & exercise) or surgery. Your condition may improve with medication or surgery and outlook depends on how advanced your condition is and other existing health factors. Talk to your doctor about the best treatment plan for you.

Living with CHF:

  • Keep blood pressure low
  • Maintain fluid balance
  • Limit sodium in diet
  • Monitor weight
  • Take medications as prescribed
  • Schedule regular doctor appointments
  • Stop smoking
  • Control cholesterol and diabetes
  • Exercise regularly
  • Do not drink alcohol