By Cami Tesch, Student Nurse

College of Nursing, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh


What is Congestive Heart Failure?

Congestive heart failure is when the heart is not able to pump a sufficient amount of blood through the body. The left side of the heart is responsible for pumping oxygenated blood to the body. When someone has heart failure, fluids begin to pool and back flow to the lungs, causing the congestive portion. The right side of the heart is responsible for pumping blood from the body to the lungs. If the lungs are already backed up, there is going to be a back flow to the rest of the body.

If there is a back flow of fluids into the lungs, a person may be having symptoms such as a productive cough with tinted mucus, and shortness of breath or wheezing. A main sign of right sided heart failure is edema in the lower legs, ankles, and feet. Edema is when there is a substantial amount of fluid pooling in a certain area. It may or may not become painful. Because there is a lot of fluid pooling in the lower extremities and not going back to the heart, becoming very dizzy when standing up from a seated position is common.

Is there a way to prevent Congestive Heart Failure?

There are several ways to help prevent heart failure. One important thing to remember is to eat healthy which includes a low sodium diet. Keeping sodium intake low helps to decrease any retention of fluids. Reducing fat intake is also important in the prevention of heart failure. Exercise is a good way to keep weight at a healthy level. A main factor associated with heart failure is high blood pressure. Smoking increases blood pressure, which is why quitting smoking is a way to help prevent heart failure.

How can medical professionals tell if I have heart failure?

There are several tests that can be conducted if someone is suspected of having heart failure. One test is an EKG, or electrocardiogram, which includes putting several electrodes over the chest to see how the heart is beating. Another test, called an echocardiogram, is an ultrasound of the heart. This allows medical professionals to see if heart muscles and valves are working properly and if they are pumping the sufficient amount of blood. More information can be found here.

What is the next step?

If someone is diagnosed with heart failure, the doctor may prescribe some form of medication(s). Some of these may include antihypertensives, diuretics, or blood thinners. Each case of heart failure may be different. There are several different ways to begin treatment, so be sure to talk with a doctor about any concerns.


Cleveland Clinic Medical Professional. (2021). Heart failure. Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved from:

Healthwise Staff. (2020). Right-sided heart failure. Frankel Cardiovascular Center: University of Michigan Health. Retrieved from:

John’s Hopkins Researchers. (2021). Congestive heart failure: prevention, treatment and research. John’s Hopkins Medicine. Retrieved from: