Greater fatigue, increased shortness of breath, and chest discomfort are common symptoms that could indicate heart failure may be worsening.
Congestive heart failure, also known as heart failure, is a chronic condition where your heart struggles to effectively pump blood, leading to fluid buildup in areas such as the lungs, legs, and feet.
It’s important to be able to identify the symptoms of heart failure and to recognize if your symptoms are getting worse.
Symptoms that may indicate that heart failure is getting worse may include:
- increased shortness of breath
- swelling in the ankles, legs, abdomen, or other parts of your body
- chest discomfort
- sudden weight gain
- reduced exercise tolerance
- persistent cough or wheezing
- increased heart rate
- difficulty sleeping
- confusion or mental changes
Heart failure is a progressive condition with four stages (A, B, C, and D), ranging from high risk to advanced heart failure.
Stage A: This is the high risk phase before heart failure develops. It’s characterized by a family history of heart failure or having one or more of the following conditions:
- coronary artery disease
- metabolic syndrome
- history of alcohol use disorder
- history of rheumatic fever
- family history of cardiomyopathy (a disease that affects your heart muscle)
- history of taking certain drugs, such as drugs for cancer, that can damage your heart
Stage B: In stage B, the left ventricle, responsible for pumping oxygenated blood, might not work well or have structural issues. But there are no noticeable heart failure symptoms, such as shortness of breath or fatigue.
Stage C: In this stage, you’ve received a diagnosis of heart failure and have experienced or are currently experiencing symptoms related to your heart condition. These symptoms can include shortness of breath, fatigue, difficulty exercising, and swelling in the legs and ankles.
Stage D (heart failure with reduced ejection fraction): Stage D of heart failure is a serious phase where the usual treatments no longer work, and the heart problem has become severe and difficult to handle.
The timeline for worsening heart failure isn’t fixed and depends on individual factors and medical circumstances.
In some cases, symptoms can remain stable for an extended period, even months or years, before they start to worsen. Rapid worsening can occur after certain events such as a heart attack or an infection.
How long can you live with worsening heart failure?
The outlook for people with worsening heart failure can vary widely, from several months to years, depending on the severity of the condition and individual factors.
- 1 year: 86.5%
- 2 years: 72.6%
- 5 years: 56.7%
- 10 years: 34.9%
Older age is linked to shorter survival, and those receiving better heart failure medications had lower mortality rates.
Heart failure can’t usually be fully reversed to standard heart function. But with proper treatment, lifestyle changes, and care, its progression can be slowed, symptoms can be improved, and quality of life can be enhanced.
The overall goal of treatment is to manage symptoms and improve heart function through medications, lifestyle adjustments, and addressing underlying health issues.
Treatments for chronic heart failure may include:
- Medications: Various medications, such as angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, beta-blockers, diuretics, and angiotensin receptor blockers, can help improve heart function, manage blood pressure, and reduce fluid buildup.
- Lifestyle changes: Adopting a heart-healthy diet low in salt and saturated fats, engaging in regular physical activity, quitting smoking, and limiting alcohol intake can help manage symptoms and improve heart health.
- Fluid management: Diuretics help reduce excess fluid buildup in your body, easing breathing difficulties and reducing swelling.
- Device therapy: Implantable devices such as pacemakers, implantable cardioverter-defibrillators, and cardiac resynchronization therapy devices can improve heart rhythm and function.
- Surgery: In some cases, surgical procedures such as coronary artery bypass grafting or heart valve repair or replacement may be necessary to improve blood flow and heart function.
- New procedures:
Researchshows that surgical innovations such as 77SyncCardia and atrial shunting hold promise, but larger clinical trials are needed to determine their long-term effectiveness.
- Heart transplant: Advanced heart failure may require heart transplants, but the shortage of donors is a challenge.
Treatment is most effective when combined with healthy lifestyle changes, and it can’t be a substitute for necessary dietary changes, regular exercise, and other heart-healthy habits.
Additionally, even if you’ve received a diagnosis of stage D heart failure, recovered ejection fraction is possible with the right medications for some. But these medications will need to be continued indefinitely to maintain positive results.
Congestive heart failure is a chronic condition that occurs when your heart struggles to pump blood efficiently, causing fluid accumulation in areas such as the lungs, legs, and feet. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and may appear intermittently.
As time goes on, heart failure tends to worsen, resulting in the development of new or more pronounced symptoms. Recognizing these symptoms of worsening heart failure is crucial. If you’re experiencing such symptoms, don’t hesitate to discuss them with a doctor for proper guidance and care.