Life Expectancy for Congestive Heart Failure

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  • According to a 2013 Circulation Research article, around 50 percent of individuals with heart failure survive for at least five years, while 10 percent survive for around 10 years
  • Proper treatment can aid with improving symptoms and heart function among people with congestive heart failure

There are factors that can determine the life expectancy of congestive heart failure patients, namely the severity of heart failure, age and overall health1 (alongside other elements). According to a 2013 Circulation Research article, around 50 percent of individuals with heart failure survive for at least five years, while 10 percent survive for around 10 years after their initial diagnosis.

Everyday Health also notes that the prognosis of congestive heart failure has improved a bit through the years because of better heart failure treatments.2,3

What Are the Known Complications of Congestive Heart Failure?

Proper treatment can aid with improving symptoms and heart function among people with congestive heart failure. However, there are complications linked to congestive heart failure that may shorten your life expectancy, such as this list of concerns cited by the Mayo Clinic:4

  • Kidney damage or failure: Heart failure is known to reduce blood flow to the kidneys and cause kidney failure if left untreated. Dialysis may be needed to address kidney damage from heart failure.
  • Heart valve problems: The valves of the heart may not function properly if the heart is enlarged or if there is very high pressure caused by heart failure. Because the valves are responsible for maintaining blood flow in the proper direction throughout the heart, development of valve problems can be detrimental.
  • Heart rhythm problems or arrhythmias: These are considered a potential complication of heart failure.
  • Liver damage: Heart failure can result in a fluid buildup that delivers increased pressure on the liver. This buildup may lead to scarring and make it hard for the liver to function properly.

Some cases of congestive heart failure can be life-threatening and patients may require a heart transplant or support with a mechanical pump called a ventricular assist device (VAD). The pump moves blood from the lower chamber of your heart to the rest of your body. Depending on your needs and condition, a VAD may be either implanted inside your body, or attached externally.5

Better Management of Congestive Heart Failure Is Crucial

While many causes of congestive heart failure may not be reversed, some measures can help improve symptoms and life expectancy, no matter which stage of heart failure you are in. If you have been diagnosed with congestive heart failure, the Mayo Clinic suggests paying attention to your body and how you feel, and consulting a doctor when you're feeling better or worse to help him or her know the treatment that can work for you. Mayo Clinic suggests these other actions that you can do to help you manage your condition:6

Keep track of the medicines you take: Try making a list of the medications you take and bring it up if you have any new doctors treating you.

Don't stop taking certain medications without talking to your doctor. However, if you do experience side effects linked to the medicines, ask your doctor what has to be done to stop these complications from worsening.

Avoid over-the-counter medications: These medicines can worsen heart failure and lead to fluid buildup. Medicines to avoid include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, IB and others), naproxen sodium (Aleve) and diet pills.

Exercise caution when taking supplements: There are dietary supplements that can interfere with heart failure medications or worsen your condition. If you are taking any supplements or plan to take supplements to address other aspects of health, consult your doctor first.

Keep track of your weight and bring your records to doctors’ visits: An increase in weight can be an indicator of fluid buildup in the body. Your doctor may advise that you take diuretics if your weight has increased by a certain amount within a day.

Maintain a record of your blood pressure levels: Consider buying a home blood pressure monitor and keep track of blood pressure levels between doctors’ appointments. Bring this record to the appointment too.

Try writing down possible questions for your doctor: Prepare a list for your appointment. Ask for clarifications and make sure you understand everything that your doctor recommends to you.

Keep important contact information on-hand: These include your doctor's phone number, the hospital's phone number and directions to the hospital or clinic.


Managing congestive heart failure not only entails an open and honest relationship between you and your doctor, but careful monitoring of your symptoms and lifestyle activities, as well. Be honest about following recommendations concerning diet, lifestyle and medications.

When to Call for Emergency Help

Furthermore, if you have heart failure and are experiencing new or worsening symptoms, don't wait until it's too late to call for help.7 If you suddenly gain or lose 4 pounds or more, call your doctor immediately, especially if you have a weight gain accompanied by edema (swelling in your extremities or abdomen). Chest pain, a fast heartbeat over 120 beats per minute while resting and sudden difficulty breathing are also symptoms your doctor will want to know about.

If you have sudden, severe, unexpected chest pain accompanied by nausea, weakness and/or sweating (sometimes your body will feel cold to the touch, even though you're sweating), have someone take you to the nearest emergency department or call an ambulance — this could be a sign that you are having a heart attack.8 Other congestive heart failure symptoms and complications that may call for immediate attention include:

Restlessness, confusion

New or more noticeable irregular heartbeat

Sudden weakness or paralysis in your arms or legs

Fainting spell with loss of consciousness

Constant dizziness or lightheadedness

Sudden onset of a severe headache

Do not take chances! If you are experiencing these symptoms, get checked out right away.

MORE ABOUT CONGESTIVE HEART FAILURE

Congestive Heart Failure: Introduction

What Is Congestive Heart Failure?

Congestive Heart Failure Symptoms

Congestive Heart Failure Causes

Congestive Heart Failure Stages

Congestive Heart Failure Life Expectancy

Congestive Heart Failure Treatment

Congestive Heart Failure Prevention

Congestive Heart Failure Diet

Congestive Heart Failure FAQ

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