Louis Cunningham, M.D.
Dr. Louis Cunningham
, above right, discusses how the heart works with Larry Renfroe of Luray.
Dr. Louis Cunningham
is concerned about the increasing numbers of patients he
sees each day with congestive heart failure.
The disease seems to be mushrooming largely because the number of older Americans is increasing.
"It's a major medical problem in cardiovascular medicine," says Dr. Cunningham, a cardiologist at the Mid-South Heart Center.
"The health care costs for congestive heart failure are $55-60 billion a year."
offers other statistics
"Congestive heart failure is the weakening of the heart muscle so that it no longer does an adequate job of pumping blood throughout the body, Dr. Cunningham
"When that pump begins to fail and the body is no longer getting a constant flow of blood supplying oxygen, all organs of the body are affected.
In general, death occurs when the pumping efficiency of the heart diminishes until its effectiveness is non-existent."
Congestive heart failure is caused by many factors - some of which Americans can control, such as high blood pressure and coronary artery disease, and some of which we cannot control, such as cardiomyopathy, a viral infection or even pregnancy.
"To a large extent," Dr. Cunningham
says, "we are doing this to ourselves when bad eating habits or lifestyle cause high blood pressure or coronary artery disease."
Though the problem is more likely with age, not all elderly people get congestive heart failure, he
"A person may live to a well advanced age and not have congestive heart failure."
You should see a physician, Dr. Cunningham
advises, when you experience
advises: "If you are having any of these symptoms, see your physician."
Treatment of congestive heart failure is improving, says Dr. Cunningham
, particularly in the last 20 years.
Today, medications not only treat the symptoms and help make a person feel better; they also lessen the advancement of the disease.
says, there is no cure.
"Even though we can't control all of the factors that could cause heart failure," Dr. Cunningham
says, "it is still important to lead a healthy lifestyle and to get your medical problems treated.