You or someone close has just been diagnosed with chronic heart failure and you’re wondering how long this will last, even with the best treatment.

CHF is a common condition that mostly affects people over 65, but can also develop in middle age people and even those in their 20s.

What exactly is heart failure?

Obviously, something about the heart fails here. But it has nothing to do with the coronary arteries or blockages.

It’s about the heart’s pumping action. In CHF, either the heart doesn’t pump out adequate blood with each beat, and/or the heart does not fill up with an adequate volume of blood before each beat to be pumped out.

Upon hearing, “Your heart is in failure,” the patient will want to know how long this can last, even if they quit smoking, lose weight, cut back on sodium and be faithful to their prescribed medications.

“Heart failure is a chronic, progressive condition, meaning that once you have this diagnosis, it does not go away,” says Beth Davidson, DNP, past president of the American Association of Heart Failure Nurses.

“However, with proper medication and treatment, it can be managed,” continues Davidson.

In CHF, the heart is enlarged and misshapen, as shown on the right., CC BY-SA 4.0/ Commons 

“While everyone’s experience with heart failure is different, people living with the condition should speak with a healthcare provider to find ways to manage HF that works for them.

“Maintaining a low-salt diet, getting regular physical activity and taking medications as prescribed are some of the recommended ways to manage the condition.

“One commonly prescribed medication is Entresto, an HF medicine prescribed by most cardiologists.”

Davidson explains that this medication helps reduce the risk of hospitalization from a sudden worsening of chronic heart failure, as well as lower the risk of death from HF.

There is no cure for chronic heart failure: only a way to slow down the weakening of the heart’s pumping action.

You can think of Entresto and other heart failure drugs as a way of slowing the progression of a disease process that’s destined to progress no matter what.

“Patients with HF should always work with their care team to determine which treatment plan is right for them.”

How Long Chronic Heart Failure Lasts

The simple answer to “How long does heart failure last” is “For the rest of your life.”

Thus, it’s crucial to do everything possible to prevent this disease, or, at least, delay its onset.

Certainly, if we lived long enough, like to 110, we would all eventually develop heart failure if cancer, stroke, kidney failure, pneumonia and car accidents didn’t kill us first.

The concept of preventing chronic heart failure, then, boils down to pushing its onset out as far as possible.

“There are many risk factors for the development of heart failure, including some that are modifiable and some that are not,” says Davidson.

“For example, aging, family history and having comorbidities such as hypertension, coronary artery disease or diabetes are nonmodifiable risk factors.”

When’s the last time you took your blood pressure? Chronic hypertension can cause congestive heart failure, even in younger adults. Shutterstock/Andrey_Popov

Examples of two very modifiable risk factors are smoking and obesity.

“Weight loss is recommended in overweight and obese patients to help the heart meet the daily metabolic demands/needs of the body and help manage risk factors and comorbidities by decreasing blood pressure, improving lipid levels (cholesterol levels) and reducing the risk of diabetes mellitus and other health conditions,” explains Davidson.

Once you develop chronic heart failure, it’ll be the gorilla on your back for life.

You may feel healthy now, at a young age, but the time to start thinking about preventing CHF is before it begins developing.

Another modifiable risk factor is lack of a structured exercise regimen.

Both aerobic and weight-bearing workouts are extremely important to keep the heart strong well into old age.

Beth Davidson is a nurse practitioner specializing in heart failure, based in Nashville, TN, and former director of the Heart Failure Disease Management Program at TriStar Centennial Medical Center in Nashville.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  


Top image: Shutterstock/Rocketclips, Inc.