1 in 5 adults will develop heart failure, warns the American Heart Association, and congestive heart failure is one of the most common types of heart failure. While Emory Healthcare warns that patients with congestive heart failure are up to 900% more likely than the general population to experience sudden death, many people manage this disease for years.
In fact, right now approximately 5 million Americans are living with congestive heart failure, with doctors across the country diagnosing more than half a million new cases of heart failure annually.
As the name suggests, congestive heart failure is when blood returning to your heart backs up, creating fluid congestion in your body. A common symptom is swelling in your extremities, such as in your ankles and legs. Other symptoms may include chest pain, dizziness, difficulty breathing and fatigue.
How long you can live with heart failure depends on many factors, including the stage of heart failure, your age and your overall health. In one study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, researchers followed 7,865 heart failure patients who were discharged from the hospital. The study found that the average post-hospital lifespan for the patients were 5.5 years.
However, the aforementioned factors play a big role. For example, men in their 80s lived an average of 2.9 years after heart failure, while low-risk women under the age of 50 lived for almost 20 years.
The stage of heart failure that you’re in is also significant. Your doctor will tell you which one of the four stages of congestive heart failure you’re in, beginning with Stage A and ending in Stage D.
Stage A patients don’t show any symptoms and don’t have any heart damage but are at high risk of congestive heart failure. Stage B patients have abnormalities in their heart, but no symptoms. When symptoms kick in, you’re in Stage C. This is when treatment options may include beta blockers and exercise training where applicable. Finally, Stage D is when more other interventions don’t work and patients may be a candidate for a heart transplant, surgical implants or end-of-life care.
While you can’t change your genetics or your age, a congestive heart failure risk or diagnosis is serious but does not necessarily spell immediate disaster. By taking a healthy, balanced approach to nutrition, exercise and lifestyle, you may lower your risks of congestive heart failure and increase your longevity if you’re diagnosed with heart failure.