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How long does heart failure last?

Heart failure is a chronic, progressive condition, meaning it lasts for the life of the person who has it. With heart failure the heart's pumping power is weaker than normal. It is one of the most common reasons for hospitalization for people 65 and older. Heart failure often develops after other conditions have damaged the heart, such as coronary artery disease, hypertension (high blood pressure) and heart valve disease. Doctors try to proactively treat heart failure symptoms, such as weight gain, swelling, fatigue and shortness of breath, before a person requires treatment in the hospital.

People with heart failure can lead enjoyable lives by managing their condition with proper treatment and a healthy lifestyle. That's why it is so important for people with heart failure and their caregivers to understand the disease and work with their doctor to manage it.

Trinity Health is a Catholic health care organization that acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition and does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. In case of emergency call 911. This site is educational and not a substitute for professional medical advice, always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider.

Mandy Higuera
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Heart Failure is a chronic progressive disease and once diagnosed, becomes a chronic illness that can be slowed way down with a good partnership between healthcare providers and their patients. The heart failure patient should be ready to learn about their disease, understand it, and understand signs and symptoms that necessitate a call to the doctor or a trip to the ER.

Treatment of heart failure is multipronged and depends on the individual as well as the stage of heart failure a person is in. Treatments include a combination of medicines aimed at blocking some of the processes in the body that trigger a heart failure episode, medication to lower blood pressure to take the stress off of the heart, and medicines to help the heart beat with some more force to encourage better blood flow from the heart to the rest of the organs.

Once diagnosed with heart failure, a person must decide to engage in several lifestyle changes in order to maximize their control over their health state and quality of life. Diet, exercise, energy management techniques, daily monitoring of weight, blood pressure, or any symptoms of concern are a must. Many heart failure patients keep a journal to take to the doctor chronicling concerns. Heart Failure patients are often placed on antidepressants in the middle to late stages of heart failure and encouraged to engage in support groups that help heart failure patients and caregivers cope effectively. This is a big part of not only slowing down the disease, but in maintaining the best quality of life for patient and family.

Advanced heart failure treatment options include Pacemaker/Defibrillators, Ventricular Assistive Devices, Ultrafiltration (to pull off excess fluid from the body), or IV medications that help the heart to beat more effectively thereby reducing some of the more troublesome symptoms of advanced heart failure. A common medication patients will live at home with is Dobutamine. Some candidates for transplant will usually remain in the hospital with this medication until an organ is available. Ventricular Assist Devices and Transplants have made a significant impact on improving outcomes in those with congestive heart failure, and extending life. 

Once diagnosed, heart failure is a life-long condition. There is no cure for heart failure, but there are many treatments, including lifestyle changes, medications, and surgery, to ease symptoms and prolong life expectancy. Heart failure can occur at any age, although it is most common in older people who have underlying heart conditions.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.