What Is The Prognosis For Heart Failure?

survival outlook for heart failure patients
Will I Survive Heart Failure?

Note: We use the terms heart failure and congestive heart failure (CHF) interchangeably. They mean the same thing.

The outlook for patients with congestive heart failure varies, depending on the actual cause of the disease. The causes of heart failure vary, and can range from long-standing high blood pressure (hypertension), coronary heart disease (CHD) and heart arrhythmia (irregular heartbeats) to damage from previous heart attacks. Heart failure caused by hypertension and minor heart attacks can usually be treated successfully with medications. It is important to note there is no cure, but symptoms of heart failure in this instance can be managed. If the heart was damaged by a severe heart attack, or lots of smaller ones, the outlook is less promising and your physical activity is likely to be severely restricted. The worst outlook is for patients whose entire heart muscle is damaged due to an infection caused by a virus. This is more likely to happen to younger people and usually results in the need for a heart transplant.

One way doctors use to determine someone's survival rate is to classify them according to New York Heart Association's symptom scale. In class 1 your chance of living a relatively normal, long life are good. The further up the scale you go, the worse the outlook.

The New York Heart Association Symptoms Scale

Class 1
You experience shortness of breath or fatigue after an unusual amount of physical activity.
Class 2
You experience symptoms carrying out everyday tasks such as vacuuming the house or climbing the stairs.
Class 3
Symptoms occur with any activity.
Class 4
Shortness of breath and fatigue occur at rest. Heart failure at this stage may kill you and a heart transplant may be the only hope, although if the patient is over 65 this may not be an option (see treatment of heart failure). Fortunately, despite the millions of Americans with CHF, relatively few progress to stage 4.

Improve Your Chance Of Survival

A report by the UK's National Heart Failure Audit which analyzed over 21,000 patient records found that 32 percent of heart failure patients will die within a year of hospital admission. However, the death rate fell to 23 percent in those who were seen by a cardiologist (a specialized heart doctor) or in those who had access to specialized heart failure services. The report also found that patients in general were given 50 percent lower dosages of heart failure medications like ACE Inhibitors and beta blockers. It clearly shows the benefits of being treated by the right kind of doctor!

Other Questions
Raynauds phenomenon in cold weather: Why do my hands turn blue?

• Need more information? See: Living With Heart Failure
• Got another question? See: Womens Health Questions

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