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March 23rd, 2011
12:26 PM ET

What is congestive heart failure?

For years  Hollywood icon Elizabeth Taylor had struggled with congestive heart failure, a chronic condition in which the weakened heart cannot pump enough blood throughout the body.

Taylor, 79,  died Wednesday at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles after six weeks of hospitalization, her publicist said.

Congestive heart failure occurs when the heart can no longer keep pace with circulation needs. The blood backs up in veins and other parts of the body such as the liver, lungs and lower extremities.  The condition also affects the kidneys' filtering ability.  Patients commonly see swelling in their legs and ankles.  They can also have trouble exerting themselves, easily experiencing shortness of breath and fatigue, according to the American Heart Association.

Conditions that tax the heart, such as narrowed arteries (coronary artery disease), past heart attacks, high blood pressure, heart valve disease, infections or congenital defects can cause heart failure.

Most people with mild and moderate conditions can be treated with medication and lifestyle changes, like more exercise, less salt in the diet, less stress and weight management. More drastic cases may require valve replacement or even a heart transplant. Taylor once had heart valve replacement surgery.

About 2.5 million women in the United States are affected by the condition, according to the Cleveland Clinic.


soundoff (47 Responses)
  1. Lawrence of AL

    Probably just old age. (Plus all those divorces/drinking/drugs) didn't help give her longevity. She wasn't the picture of health for a long time. Whenever I think of her I remember the SNL skit where she coughed up an entire chicken.

    March 23, 2011 at 14:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Chuckster

    CNN, your such a Liberal WASTE!!!!!!!!! MSN is much better, they are not biased!!!

    March 23, 2011 at 16:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Me

      Why don't you only go to the MSN website and stop reading CNN articles, then we don't have to read your comments.

      March 23, 2011 at 18:48 | Report abuse |
    • MeToo

      I didn't know that heart failure was a liberal thing...you learn something new ever day.

      March 23, 2011 at 19:34 | Report abuse |
  3. charles s

    Here is a nutritional way to treat and prevent it:
    http://www.doctoryourself.com/congestive.html

    March 23, 2011 at 18:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Amy

    My Dad and my Grandmother both died of congestive heart failure. It is a serious issue.

    March 24, 2011 at 03:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Jane

    To Charles not everyone can prevent it. My mom had rheumatic fever as a child and it caused her to get congestive heart failure as an adult. The virus weakened her heart. They even said in the article that some viruses can cause it. We often talk about heart diesese but rarely do people talk about congestive heart failure.

    March 24, 2011 at 05:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Jorge

    Congestive heart failure before 80 happens when your body has had enough of A) The bad choices you've made in life, either by accident or design, and/or B)The virulent bugs you've picked up from mingling with toxic, infectious people. It is what it is.

    March 24, 2011 at 08:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Don Powers

    Did Taylor smoke? News doesn't comment on this but its a major reason for heart failure.

    March 24, 2011 at 11:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Steve

    Look up "systemic enzymes" on line. I've had wonderful effects with my type 1 diabetes and CHF. The blood pooling in my lower legs (purple color) is dissapearing and my toes are now pink demonstrating better blood flow. Systemic enzymes will disolve all plaque in your blood system and even your teeth. It's a strong anti-inflamatory and natural blood thiner and disolves all scar tissue and fibrous material in the body. I have a testimonial if you woud like. Just send me your email address and I will send it to you. Mine is sc_wyman@q.com I am not selling this product!

    July 18, 2012 at 14:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. lauren jonczak

    I have been doing a lot of research on treatments for congestive heart failure ever since my aunt died from it last month. It was a complete wake up call for me. It is a shame that Elizabeth Taylor died, my mother loved her! I had no idea she was married so many times. Thanks for the great post!

    March 7, 2014 at 10:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Glen charles

    I am 58 years old, and was diagnosed with heart failure over a year ago. My main symptoms was fatigue, shortness of breath, and a general sense that these symptoms will keep me out of normal life activities, my symptom was not being able to breathe when lying down basically . I’ve kind of resigned to the fact that this is how life will be for me back until I found herbs that stop this CHF easily and relief all the airways. My wife and her caregiver assume I can't be as active, and thus I was excused from normal life responsibilities but natural herbs from totalcureherbalfoundation.blogspot.com really helped a but sometimes I think is God prodigy that I was able to treat my congestive heart failure  but total cure herbs foundation herbal formula has a big impact on my recovery because my heart condition has been fully eliminate. They do things for me, and was too happy to comply with their service. This is a equitable of a way to get of your heart failure.

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.