What is a heart failure?

Heart failure, also known as congestive heart failure (CHF), is a chronic and progressive medical condition in which the heart becomes unable to pump blood effectively to meet the body’s needs. As a result, the body may not receive enough oxygen and nutrients, leading to various symptoms and complications.


Heart failure can occur when the heart muscles become weakened or stiffened, impairing their ability to contract and pump blood efficiently. It can affect the left side, right side, or both sides of the heart, leading to different types of heart failure:


  • Left-sided heart failure: This occurs when the left ventricle, the main pumping chamber of the heart responsible for pumping oxygen-rich blood to the body, becomes weakened or stiffened. Left-sided heart failure can result in the backup of blood into the lungs, leading to symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing, and fluid buildup in the lungs (pulmonary congestion).


  • Right-sided heart failure: This occurs when the right ventricle, which receives oxygen-depleted blood from the body and pumps it to the lungs for oxygenation, becomes weakened or stiffened. Right-sided heart failure can cause blood to accumulate in the veins and organs, leading to symptoms such as swelling in the legs and abdomen, fatigue, and liver congestion.


Heart failure can also be classified based on its severity and whether it occurs suddenly (acute) or develops gradually over time (chronic). Common causes and risk factors for heart failure include coronary artery disease, high blood pressure (hypertension), heart valve disorders, cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart muscle), congenital heart defects, arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats), diabetes, obesity, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and a history of heart attacks.


What is the relationship between CHF and oxidative stress?

The relationship between heart failure and oxidative stress involves intricate mechanisms that contribute to the progression of the disease. Here’s how oxidative stress may be related to heart failure:


  • Increased Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) Production: Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the body’s antioxidant defense mechanisms. In heart failure, various factors such as inflammation, ischemia-reperfusion injury, neurohormonal activation, and mitochondrial dysfunction can lead to increased ROS production within the heart muscle cells (cardiomyocytes). ROS are highly reactive molecules that can damage cellular components such as lipids, proteins, and DNA, leading to cellular dysfunction and death.


  • Oxidative Damage to Cardiac Tissues: The accumulation of ROS in the heart can cause oxidative damage to cellular structures, including the cell membrane, mitochondria, and contractile proteins. Lipid peroxidation, protein oxidation, and DNA damage can impair cellular function, disrupt signaling pathways, and contribute to myocardial dysfunction and remodeling. Oxidative damage to cardiomyocytes, endothelial cells, and vascular smooth muscle cells can exacerbate myocardial injury, impair contractility, promote fibrosis, and lead to progressive deterioration of cardiac function in heart failure.


  • Activation of Inflammatory Pathways: Oxidative stress can activate inflammatory pathways and promote the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines, chemokines, and adhesion molecules within the heart and circulation. Chronic inflammation in heart failure contributes to myocardial damage, fibrosis, and hypertrophy, further amplifying oxidative stress and impairing cardiac function. Inflammatory mediators such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), interleukin-6 (IL-6), and nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB) play key roles in mediating the crosstalk between oxidative stress, inflammation, and heart failure progression.


  • Impaired Antioxidant Defense Mechanisms: In response to increased oxidative stress, the body activates antioxidant defense mechanisms to neutralize ROS and maintain redox homeostasis. Antioxidant enzymes such as superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase, and glutathione peroxidase, as well as non-enzymatic antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E, and glutathione, help scavenge ROS and protect cells from oxidative damage. However, in heart failure, antioxidant defense mechanisms may become overwhelmed or impaired due to factors such as decreased antioxidant enzyme activity, reduced availability of cellular antioxidants, or disruption of redox signaling pathways, leading to persistent oxidative stress and tissue injury.


Overall, oxidative stress plays a critical role in the pathogenesis of heart failure by promoting myocardial damage, inflammation, fibrosis, and remodeling.