ZocdocAnswersWhat is Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)?

Question

What is Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)?

I am afraid that I may have Congestive Heart Failure (CHF). Does that mean that my heart is going to stop working or I am going to have a heart attack? I have had high blood pressure for years and am severely overweight and sometimes feel as if my heart is pumping so hard, but at the same time, my heartbeat seems so slow and so weak. My feet swell, and and I cannot breathe very well some days, and I cannot lie flat. Does this mean I am experiencing Congestive Heart Failure?

Answer

I recommend scheduling an appointment with a cardiologist to discuss this concern. Congestive heart failure occurs when the heart is no longer able to pump enough blood to meet the body's metabolic demands. It usually occurs in people with coronary artery disease (blockages in the arteries that feed the heart muscle) and people with uncontrolled high blood pressure for many years. There are many other less common causes as well. The most common symptom of congestive heart failure is shortness of breath with any kind of exertion. Occasionally people will also get short of breath when lying flat. In your case, having high blood pressure and being overweight both would put you at risk of developing CHF. Again, I suggest that you schedule an appointment with a cardiologist. He or she will be able to listen to your symptoms and perform a full physical exam. Many times this is all that is needed to tell if someone does or does not have congestive heart failure. Your doctor might also perform an echocardiogram. This is a test using an ultrasound machine that looks at the heart and can tell how well it is pumping. In any case, you will be able to discuss with the doctor all the different things you should do to prevent or treat any heart condition you are at risk of getting. Good luck.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.