How Long Can You Live with Congestive Heart Failure?
Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a progressive condition that occurs when fluid collects around the heart, making it impossible for your heart to pump blood effectively. The first question patients diagnosed with this condition usually ask is “how long can I live with congestive heart failure?” The answer depends on what stage the patient is in at the time of diagnosis.
Stages of Congestive Heart Failure
Stages of congestive heart failure are based on the severity of a patient’s current symptoms.
In Stage 1, patients are determined to have weakness in their heart muscle, but do not yet have the symptoms or structure of congestive heart failure.
In Stage 2, patients have structural heart disease, but still do not present with the signs or symptoms of congestive heart failure.
In Stage 3, patients experience symptoms that limit their everyday activities. These can include shortness of breath, fluid in the lower extremities, chest pain, abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, and fatigue.
In Stage 4, symptoms will worsen for the patient and will not improve with treatment. This is the final stage of congestive heart failure.
There are a number of factors that influence how long a patient will remain in the earlier stages and consequently how long they can live with congestive heart failure. These include how well the heart is functioning, age, lifestyle changes, response to treatment, and comorbidities (the presence of other illnesses).
Conditions including high blood pressure, diabetes, alcoholism, a previous heart attack, heart valve disease, and coronary artery disease can all contribute to congestive heart failure.
How to Live Longer with Congestive Heart Failure
When a patient has been diagnosed with an early stage of congestive heart failure, there are three main things they can do to slow the progression of the disease. First, they must begin an exercise program under the direction of their physician. They must also take steps to manage other chronic illnesses including high blood pressure and diabetes through diet, medication, and exercise. Finally, their doctor will likely prescribe medication to control their symptoms.
As a patient moves into Stage 3 of congestive heart failure, the support of palliative care in the home to help monitor and treat symptoms can be very helpful in continuing to slow disease progression.
Once a patient reaches Stage 4 of congestive heart failure, the focus turns to making sure the patient is comfortable in their final months. One common symptom of Stage 4 congestive heart failure is shortness of breath – particularly in the evening. This symptom is always troubling for patients and their families. Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care partners with families to control this symptom in the home, avoiding unnecessary late night runs to the emergency room.
The progress of congestive heart failure varies greatly from one patient to the next based on the patient’s stage at diagnosis and the effect of other health conditions. The patient’s physician will work with them to determine the best care plan for their individual situation.
To learn more about how Crossroads determines hospice eligibility for CHF, please call 1-888-564-3405.
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