The human body is incredibly complex, and doctors are constantly discovering new ways that different organs and body systems and genetic differences are connected and interdependent. Weight gain, for instance, is a function of metabolism and how the food we eat is either converted to energy or stored as fat. Yet the story is clearly much more complex than that, and the factors that play a role in weight gain extend to many different aspects of our health. One seemingly unrelated condition that may indeed have a role to play in weight gain is congestive heart failure.
Congestive heart failure (CHF), also sometimes referred to as simply heart failure, is the term for the signs and symptoms that occur when the heart is no longer able to pump blood through the circulatory system. It’s important to note that CHF is not the same thing as the heart stopping as in cardiac arrest. Congestive heart failure means that the heart isn’t pumping as much blood as the body needs for normal functions. This is typically a heart condition that develops over time and is treated as a chronic, long-term problem. When someone has congestive heart failure, the body attempts to compensate in several ways:
These sorts of temporary measures are part of the body’s natural instinct to survive and prolong life, but they ultimately can’t solve the underlying issues. Over time, heart failure will continue and worsen until even the compensatory measures are no longer effective. This phenomenon is also the reason why many people are totally unaware of any heart problems until long after the decline in functionality started; most of the time there are no clear symptoms until the body can no longer compensate.
The earliest stages of CHF may not lead to any discernible symptoms for most people, or they may be fairly mild. In some cases symptoms may occur and then go away for a while, but that shouldn’t be taken as an indication that the condition has been resolved. When symptoms do finally present, they may include manifestations that aren’t usually associated with heart problems. Below are some common symptoms of congestive heart failure:
Congestive heart failure isn’t a disease itself but rather a syndrome, which means that it is a collection of signs and symptoms that develop from some underlying condition. Generally speaking, CHF is able to develop because the heart muscle is not elastic enough or too weak to pump blood effectively. There are a variety of risk factors and medical conditions that are capable of weakening or damaging the heart in this way:
Congestive heart failure is a serious health condition that can have a lot of consequences for many different areas of a person’s health. CHF can also lead to rapid weight gain, though it is hardly the biggest concern when all else is considered. However, according to the American Heart Association, weight gain may be one of the first warning signs of worsening heart failure and an alert to seek help from a healthcare provider. It typically manifests as a weight gain of more than three pounds in a 24-hour period or more than five pounds in a week.
The main reason for congestive heart failure-related weight gain is edema, the buildup of extra fluid in the body. When the heart isn’t able to pump blood as effectively, it often means that not enough blood is reaching the kidneys. And because the kidneys are responsible for removing excess salt and water from the body, fluid accumulates in many places. As noted above, this can result in swollen legs and ankles as well as bloating in the abdomen. This kind of weight gain isn’t, however, related in any way to the kind that occurs for metabolic reasons.
Unfortunately, the damage related to congestive heart failure is permanent and can’t be cured, largely because it has been developing over a long period of time. Treatment plans are typically aimed at improving symptoms and involve a series of lifestyle changes, medications, and surgical procedures (including heart transplant) when needed. Many of these treatments will also address any weight gain by default as the heart muscle is stabilized and regular drainage of fluid can commence.
Weight gain that isn’t related to congestive heart failure is a very different situation, though it can feel similarly “incurable” for many people who have tried endless diets. The good news is that there are now revolutionary new advances in endobariatric medicine that can help you finally find the freedom you’ve been seeking. At True You Weight Loss, we provide a series of procedures that can help you sustainably lose weight so you can keep the weight off over the long term. If you’d like to learn more about our offerings, please contact us today to request a consultation!