This post was published on February 17, 2015 and updated on January 8, 2019.
Nearly everyone knows something about heart disease. From high blood pressure & cholesterol to bypass surgery to heart attacks, heart disease is top-of-mind for most older adults and their loved ones. However, one lesser-known area of heart disease is congestive heart failure.
Congestive heart failure is a progressive condition that worsens over time, especially if it goes unchecked. With congestive heart failure, the heart is weakened due to a number of conditions — ranging from high blood pressure to coronary artery disease. Due to this weakness, the heart can’t pump blood throughout the body at a normal rate, building pressure in the heart and reducing the flow of oxygen. As a result, fluid builds in the lungs, kidneys, and other areas of the body.
When it comes to congestive heart failure in older adults, there are four very important things you should know. From life expectancy to managing the condition, here are four fast facts to keep in mind should the subject of congestive heart failure arise.
Fact #1: Congestive heart failure works hand-in-hand with other heart diseases.
Congestive heart failure is the silent killer when it comes to heart disease in the elderly. The condition can be caused by many different cardiac disorders. It is important to remember that heart failure is not the actual disease, but it is the result of other conditions. This means that if you have any type of heart disease, you can be at risk for congestive heart failure.
Fact #2: Life expectancy varies for those with congestive heart failure.
When it comes to congestive heart failure life expectancy rates, a doctor will most likely tell you that there is no one answer. Much depends on the stage of your loved one’s condition, and their overall health. While advancements have been made, according to a 2008 study, 50% of patients will have an average life expectancy of five years. For those with advanced heart failure, up to 90% will pass away within one year. When asking how long can you live with congestive heart failure, those at a moderate stage will average ten years.
A recent study published in Family Practice in 2017 reviewed 54,313 patient cases and the heart failure life expectancy was 81.3% at 1 year, 51,5% at 5 years, and 29.5% at 10 years.
Fact #3: Your risk increases with age.
As a person ages, the normal aging process of the body can worsen this condition worse. About 5.8 million people in the US are living with progressive congestive heart failure. In the elderly population, those over the age of 65, there are about 900,000 yearly admissions to the hospital for heart failure in the United States.
Fact #4: Lifestyle changes can help you live longer.
Older adults living with congestive heart failure need to reduce their sodium intake. A goal of less than 2,000 mg of sodium a day is best. This means no longer adding salt at the table and staying away from pre-processed foods.
An extra serving of salt isn’t the only thing off the table with congestive heart failure. If you smoke or frequently indulge in alcohol, now is the time to stop. Smoking introduces carbon monoxide into the body which will hurt the heart’s ability to pump oxygen rich blood, and liquor will weaken the heart’s ability to pump as it should.
Finally, it is important that your loved one weighs themselves daily. Rapid weight gain can be a sign of fluid retention. This can signal a worsening of their condition or that their doctor prescribed medication needs to have an adjustment.
While a diagnosis of congestive heart failure can be a scary one, there is hope. By following your doctor’s orders carefully and being proactive in your loved one’s care, they can expect to live longer and have a better quality of life.
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and have any advice you’d like to share, we would love to hear from you in the comments below.