Does Weight Loss Occur With Congestive Heart Failure?

heart health

Congestive heart failure occurs when the heart cannot pump enough blood and oxygen into the rest of the body. More than 5 million Americans are affected by congestive heart failure, and the number continues to grow.

Some people experience unplanned weight loss with congestive heart failure. The cause of this is still uncertain, but current research suggests there are two major reasons for it.

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Congestive Heart Failure and Weight Loss

First, weight loss congestive heart failure may occur because of a lack of blood flow to the gastrointestinal tract. A 2014 study which observed a small group of patients noticed that those with the most drastic unintentional weight loss also had the lowest intestinal blood flow.

Low blood flow around the gastrointestinal tract may make it harder for the body to absorb nutrients and move food through the body. Along with that, general symptoms of congestive heart failure – including dizziness, nausea, and fatigue – may make it difficult for late-stage patients to eat.

Mood disorders such as anxiety and depression may also cause unplanned weight loss in late-stage congestive heart failure. Many of these symptoms can be managed with medication and should be discussed with caregivers.

Heart Disease

Heart disease is one of the most prevalent and serious illnesses affecting people in the United States and across the world today.

Many different types of heart disease can be inherited. Some conditions, like high blood pressure or coronary artery disease, run in families but probably result from a number of different genetic changes.

DNA Health Testing can help you determine if you are susceptible to heart disease as well as any other relevant conditions that can impact your health.

In fact, it’s the leading cause of death in the US, resulting in more than 600,000 deaths annually. Globally, cardiovascular disease (which also includes stroke) is again the number one killer.

Heart health

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What exactly is heart disease?

Heart disease develops when there’s a blockage in your heart’s blood supply or an interruption of the coronary arteries due to a build-up of fatty deposits.  Over time, the lining of the heart’s arteries are blocked with fat and can eventually cause heart failure.

There are many factors that up your chances of developing heart disease, particularly the presence of comorbidities, like diabetes, high cholesterol, and elevated blood pressure.

Lifestyle factors also play a role in the development and severity of the disease.  Though there is no true cure, there are a few things you can do to help reduce the symptoms and severity of heart disease:

  1. Maintaining a healthy weight
  2. Stopping smoking
  3. Refraining from alcohol use
  4. Getting regular exercise


Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive heart failure occurs when the heart cannot pump enough blood and oxygen into the rest of the body. More than 5 million Americans are affected by congestive heart failure, and the number continues to grow.

While the condition is fatal, it’s possible for those living with congestive heart failure to have a high quality of life. The best way to avoid congestive heart failure is to live a healthy and active lifestyle.

However, the condition can be caused by a number of other heart problems, including:

  • Heart attack
  • Faulty heart valves
  • High blood pressure
  • Coronary heart disease

It’s important to catch and treat congestive heart failure as soon as possible. While not curable, diagnosing congestive heart failure early on and following a treatment plan can drastically improve life expectancy.

Reversing Heart Disease

Numerous studies have shown that the weight of patients can seriously affect their level of risk. Being overweight or obese has been proven to contribute to many of the risk factors for heart disease.

Studies have also shown that a reduction of only 5-10% of body weight can help reduce the risk of developing heart disease. Small changes are key to helping patients reach a healthier weight, reducing their disease risk.  

While the disease is caused by blockages in the arteries, reducing body weight overall can not only help to improve the symptoms and risk of other serious illnesses, it might actually reverse the disease.

A 2015 Australian study showed that with lifestyle changes that included weight loss, the effects of heart disease could be reversed. The study further found that patients who lost weight, but later experienced regain, still had better results and less symptom return than did those who never lost weight at all.

Heart Illnesses That Cause Weight Loss

weight loss

Abdominal Obesity

A 2011 study found that not all types of obesity are considered equal when it comes to risk. This study showed that abdominal obesity particularly can lead to an elevated likelihood of developing heart disease.

Abdominal obesity is defined as the build-up of fat around the belly, chest, and heart, even in people of apparently normal size and weight.

While it is yet unclear why abdominal fat poses a greater risk, there are a few possible explanations. The build-up of visceral fat around the core internal organs of the body could lead to overactive stress response mechanisms, causing an increase in blood pressure and cardiac risk.

Visceral fat cells may also contribute to an excess of metabolized fatty acids in the liver, leading to dysfunction in other vital organs, as well as impairing heart function.

By maintaining or working to reach a healthy body weight, you can help reduce your risk of developing the cardiac disease at all, or significantly reduce the symptoms of it.

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Weight Management

There are several ways to work out what constitutes a healthy weight for the human body, but one of the most commonly used is the Body Mass Index (BMI). The BMI is a calculation based on your age, gender, and height, and offers an estimated value of your current body fat percentage.

BMI values are generally classed into four groups: underweight, normal, overweight and obese. A BMI of less than 18.5 is regarded as underweight, between 18.5 to 24.9 is a normal weight, and 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight. A BMI value over 30 is considered obese, while a value over 45 is regarded as super-obese.

You can use your BMI value to determine whether or not you need to lose weight. Your number should ideally fall somewhere in between 18.5 and 24.9.  

Another indicator you can use is waist measurement. This measures the presence of abdominal fat, which as stated above, increases your disease risk. If you are over the safe threshold (generally that’s >40 inches in men and >35 inches in women), then you may be at increased risk of developing heart disease.

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Symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure

Symptoms of congestive heart failure revolve around the body’s inability to keep blood flowing. Depending on what stage a patient is at and how the disease is progressing, symptoms include:

Shortness of breath: Fluids can build up in the lungs, and blood can back up around the lungs. Shortness of breath can persist even while resting, especially while laying down.

Bloating: Since the heart cannot maintain the pressure needed to move fluids throughout the body, water retention increases and may cause bloating. Most commonly, this comes in the form of swelling in the ankles and feet.

Irregular heartbeats: The heart is struggling to move blood through the body and may skip beats or beat too quickly, even while resting, to catch up.

Dizziness and Fatigue: Because not enough blood is flowing through vital organs and to the brain, it’s common to feel fatigued. Dizziness, lightheadedness, or clouded thinking may also occur to a reduced oxygen flow.

It’s important to note that congestive heart failure shares symptoms with many other heart problems and other diseases. While having one of these symptoms may not mean heart failure, it’s always best to speak with a doctor and ask for a heart check.

Stages of Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive heart failure occurs in four stages.

Stage 1 – Pre-CHF

People with this stage of congestive heart failure have been diagnosed either because doctors noticed a weakness in the heart, or because the patient has another heart disorder that may lead to congestive heart failure. Usually, these patients show few to no symptoms, and life expectancy is high.

Stage 2

People at this stage of congestive heart failure may begin noticing symptoms; however, these symptoms do not greatly affect the quality of life. These symptoms may be of congestive heart failure, or they may be of other conditions. Treatment for stage 2 congestive heart failure usually involves reducing stress and workload along with making lifestyle changes.

Stage 3

Typical patients with stage 3 congestive heart failure may notice their condition impacting their day to day lives. While exacerbated by other conditions, symptoms of congestive heart failure may prevent them from doing day-to-day tasks.

Stage 4

Stage 4 congestive heart failure experience debilitating symptoms which keep them from functioning on a daily basis. Treatment may require medical intervention in the form of surgeries, hospitalization, and medications.

Small Changes Make a Big Impact

The influence of body weight on heart disease is not one to be taken casually. Being overweight can have serious and far-reaching consequences for the health of your heart and the likelihood of developing other seriously.

However, even a small weight loss can reduce the risk factors significantly. Losing weight not only involves filling your diet with nutritious foods, but it also means creating a calorie deficit.

This deficit doesn’t have to be extreme to see significant weight loss. Reducing daily calorie intake by 500 calories, while increasing the general activity level to at least 90 minutes a day can be an effective way to bring the weight down to a healthier level.

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