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
  • fatigue
  • 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:

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.

A study looked at people who received a diagnosis of heart failure in Minnesota between 2007 and 2017. About 11.5% of them developed advanced heart failure within 6 years. Factors such as age and existing health difficulties were linked to this progression, and those with advanced heart failure had a greater chance of needing hospital care.

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.

A review analyzed data from several studies on chronic heart failure and found that survival rates vary. About 95.7% survive the first month after receiving a diagnosis, but rates decrease over time:

  • 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:

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.