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Congestive Heart Failure (cont.)

Congestive Heart Failure Prevention and Prognosis

Congestive heart failure can be the ultimate result of a number of diseases, or lifestyle choices, that damage the heart. Some of these can be prevented. Others cannot be prevented but can be treated successfully.

Some examples of illnesses or lifestyle choices that can lead to congestive heart failure are as follows:

  • Coronary heart disease (coronary artery disease), including heart attack
  • Uncontrolled high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Uncontrolled high cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Congenital heart disease (a heart condition that one is born with)
  • Infection (particularly some common viruses that can rarely severely affect the heart and cannot be reliably predicted or prevented)
  • Damage to the heart valves
  • Alcoholism
  • Smoking

In some cases, a family history of heart failure can be present. Many cases are a combination of factors, and in other cases, the cause is unknown.

If a person has congestive heart failure, they are at increased risk of developing pneumonia. They probably should receive both the pneumonia vaccination and annual flu shots. Patients should ask their primary health care provider to be sure.


Heart failure is a major health problem that comes with the aging of America. Today, many more people are surviving heart attacks and other heart diseases. Enduring these heart conditions allows them many more years of quality life, but can eventually lead to the development of heart failure.

In recent years, more effective medications have been developed that improve the outlook of heart failure. Medications are the mainstay of therapy with congestive heart failure.

  • New and sophisticated treatments are allowing people to live longer. These results are proven by clinical trials in which patients volunteer to take new therapies under strict ethical and scientific monitoring.
  • Pacemakers and implantable defibrillators have improved and now offer the ability to control rare, but life-threatening, disturbances of heart rhythm in some people.
  • Some people may even benefit from sophisticated treatments such as heart transplants and newer forms of temporary mechanical hearts and LVADs.

Support Groups and Counseling for Congestive Heart Failure

Having the support of health care providers, family, and friends is essential to effectively coordinate all of the needs of a person with heart failure.

People with severe heart failure have special needs beyond standard medical care.

  • Advance directives are legal documents that tell doctors and hospitals what treatments you might not want, should you become unable to speak for yourself.
  • A living will provides instructions while you are still alive, for example, if you have specific wishes if your heart or breathing stops.
  • A medical durable power of attorney allows someone you designate to make medical decisions on your behalf, if you become unable to make these decisions.
  • pulmonary edema care may be required when you and your physicians agree that your prognosis for survival is poor. Professional hospice caregivers emphasize pain control and emotional support.

Medically reviewed by Robert J. Bryg, MD; Board Certified Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Cardiovascular Disease


Fuster, Valentin, et al. Hurst's the Heart. 13th ed. China: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2010.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/10/2016
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