A heart’s weakened pumping ability can’t always be improved, but there are situations in which treatment and aggressive lifestyle changes can make a positive difference.

Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a condition in which your heart is no longer able to pump enough blood to consistently meet your body’s needs. It’s usually a chronic condition that worsens over time. But if it’s diagnosed and treated early on, CHF can sometimes be reversed or at least halted for a time.

By committing to a heart-healthy lifestyle and following to a strict medication regimen, you may be able to improve heart function. Other treatments may also be necessary to address underlying heart conditions or deal with new conditions that come along.

The key to possibly reversing CHF or prolonging your life with the condition is to work closely with a healthcare team and make the necessary changes to support better heart health.

There’s no cure for CHF.

In some cases, though, significant lifestyle changes and medications can slow or reverse the course of CHF and improve cardiac function.

If valve disease is the main cause of heart failure, successful valve replacement or repair may be enough to restore the heart’s healthy pumping ability.

The 2022 Guideline for the Management of Heart Failure suggests that a common feature of heart failure — called cardiac remodeling — can sometimes be reversed. Possible methods include medical therapy, surgery that improves blood flow to the heart, and implanting devices (pacemakers) to help the heart beat more efficiently.

Cardiac remodeling usually occurs after there’s damage to the heart, such as a heart attack or the onset of heart failure, and can change your heart’s shape, size, and function.

The life expectancy for someone with CHF depends on several factors, especially the stage of the disease, age, and overall health.

Other complicating heart conditions, such as valve disease or an arrhythmia, can also affect your outlook.

It can be difficult to generalize about life expectancy with heart failure because of so many individualized factors. But, a 2017 study suggests that about 80%–90% of people with the condition can expect to live at least 1 year after diagnosis, about 50%–60% will live at least 5 more years, and about 30% will live at least 10 more years.

CHF is considered a chronic condition that usually worsens over time. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute suggests that once you have a diagnosis of CHF, you’ll need to follow a treatment plan for the rest of your life.

But, with treatment, sometimes CHF symptoms and complications can be temporary. Treatment may effectively manage symptoms and bolster cardiac function so that there may be little or no change in your overall health.

Exercise can be a critical part of reversing heart failure or at least controlling symptoms.

A 2018 study suggests that while exercise training is essentially a form of medication for people with heart failure, the exercise capacity of someone with heart failure can sometimes be used to predict their outlook.

Because heart failure can affect the types of exercises you do and at what intensity, it’s important to exercise under the supervision of a cardiologist or a cardiac rehabilitation specialist. Through cardiac rehab, you can learn how to exercise safely while also helping your cardiovascular health.

Sticking to a heart-healthy diet is another key lifestyle change that can make a difference in how long and how well you live with heart failure.

Because CHF leads to a buildup of fluid in the body, dietary choices that help reduce fluid levels are essential. This means managing sodium intake, as high levels of sodium can cause your body to retain fluid and worsen heart failure symptoms.

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for adults recommend no more than 2.3 grams of sodium daily, though some medical experts suggest that individuals with heart failure should aim for much less sodium consumption.

But, a 2023 report suggests that going below 2.3 grams of sodium daily offers no significant health benefits for people with heart failure and might actually raise the risk of other cardiovascular conditions.

Otherwise, aim for a diet that emphasizes:

  • vegetables
  • fruits
  • whole grains
  • lean proteins (including oily fish, such as salmon)

The Mediterranean diet is considered an especially helpful diet for anyone with heart disease. Likewise, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet may be a good choice, particularly if you have high blood pressure in addition to heart failure.

While medications and changes in your dietary and physical activity routines are important, there are many other steps you can take to improve your health and quality of life with heart failure. One important step is to address your mental health through talk therapy.

Other natural ways to help include:

  • getting enough sleep
  • managing stress through meditation, yoga, breathing techniques, etc.
  • quitting smoking

CHF is a serious health concern that can affect everyday functioning, longevity, and quality of life. If you receive a diagnosis of CHF, talk with a doctor about lifestyle changes you can make and follow a medication and healthcare regimen that will support better heart health.

There’s no cure for CHF, but committing to a heart-healthy lifestyle may help reverse or slow down congestive heart health.