Getting a diagnosis of congestive heart failure (CHF) can stop you in your tracks, but don’t let the name fool you. Your heart is not failing. It means your heart is having trouble pumping blood to the rest of your body. Although the condition can worsen over time and potentially be life-threatening if you don’t take the appropriate steps, having heart failure doesn’t mean your life is over. In fact, if you make the right lifestyle changes, you can slow CHF’s progression and increase your life expectancy.
What determines your life expectancy?
There are a number of things that can affect your life expectancy. Some are out of your control and others involve making changes to your lifestyle.
These are some of the things that may affect your life expectancy with heart failure:
- Ejection fraction. To get a better picture of your heart health, your doctor will administer a test such as an echocardiogram, which will show how well an area of your heart (the left ventricle) pumps out blood. An echocardiogram scans the heart and takes measurements. This will determine what percentage of your blood is being pumped out per heartbeat. An ejection fraction of 55% means that 55% of your blood is being pushed out with each thump. A normal ejection fraction typically falls between 50% and 70%, according to the American Heart Association.
- Staging. There are four stages of heart failure, which indicate how serious your condition may be:
- Stage A: You don’t have full heart failure, but you have some risk factors. At this stage, you may have a family member with heart failure or have other medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, alcohol abuse, diabetes, or heart disease.
- Stage B: Tests show that your heart has had some damage. You will most likely not notice the symptoms, but have a below-normal result on your heart function test. Most people with Stage B have an ejection fraction of 40% or less.
- Stage C: You have some symptoms that may come and go, such as tiredness. At stage C, exercising may become more difficult. You may also have swollen or weak legs, or have shortness of breath.
- Stage D: Your symptoms are more serious and aren’t improving with medication and other treatment.
- Keeping up with medications. You will probably be prescribed several medications for your heart failure. Some medications may have side effects. How well the medications work may also change depending on how your condition changes. However, it is important that you don’t skip your