What Is Conjunctive Heart Disease?

By Katrina Josey

A person is said to have conjunctive heart failure when the heart can no longer function at a capacity great enough to meet the body's needs. Conjunctive heart failure gets worse over time and can lead to death.


Symptoms of conjunctive heart failure are discussed in terms of which side of the heart is not functioning properly. When the left side of the heart is abnormally functioning, the symptoms of conjunctive heart failure show up in relation to breathing. Patients may lose their breath while leaning or sitting back. When conjunctive heart failure occurs due to poor functioning on the right side of the heart, symptoms may include swelling in the feet or ankles while standing and having to urinate frequently during the night.


Some of the preventable causes of conjunctive heart failure include smoking cigarettes, being overweight, having high blood pressure and having diabetes. Diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure can all be prevented, controlled and sometimes reversed by engaging in healthy lifestyle behaviors such as exercising frequently and limiting consumption of saturated fats and processed foods.


Conjunctive heart disease can function and progress in a number of different ways depending on the cause. This functioning varies because the disease can be caused by anything that damages the heart muscle or lowers its efficiency. In cases where conjunctive heart disease is caused by a heart attack, the heart muscle is damaged due to a decrease in oxygen supply to a part of the heart. This causes the death of the heart muscle cells that lost their blood supply. Other means by which conjunctive heart disease functions is by a decrease in the force that the heart contracts. This causes the heart muscle to work less efficiently and pump less blood.


Once conjunctive heart disease begins, the heart tries to compensate for the decreased function by increasing the rate at which it beats and by increasing its size. This only temporarily helps to compensate for the decrease in function, but it eventually leads to further damage and decrease in function, which makes symptoms worse and progresses the disease further. The effects of an increased heart rate can lead to a fatal abnormality in the rhythm of the heart, known as an arrhythmia. The result of the heart growing in size to compensate for decreased function is stiffness in the heart muscle tissue and an inability to relax between beats.

Expert Insight

Cardiology experts recommend that patients with conjunctive heart disease adhere to the following guidelines. Patients should engage in some sort of exercise or physical activity when they feel well enough and their symptoms are not severe. Conjunctive heart disease should also work to reduce their weight if they are obese. This decreases the strain on the heart by reducing the amount of work it has to do. It can also ease or eliminate sleep apnea symptoms.

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