The term “heart failure” describes a condition in which the heart does not pump blood as effectively as it should. It can happen because the heart is weak or because there are other conditions present that impact its ability to pump. Heart failure is a chronic condition that progresses in stages. Experts generally describe heart failure as having four stages (A, B, C, and D). If your older family member has been diagnosed with heart failure, knowing the stages may help you to plan for their future.
Below are descriptions of each stage.
This stage is referred to as “pre-heart failure.” The person doesn’t have heart failure, but they are at risk for developing the condition. Things that increase the risk of developing heart failure are having one of the following conditions or having a family history of one of them:
- High blood pressure.
- Coronary artery disease.
- Metabolic syndrome.
Doctors usually suggest lifestyle changes to manage the risks, such as losing weight, treating high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and exercising regularly.
People in stage B don’t yet have heart failure, but they do have some dysfunction of the heart. They haven’t had any symptoms of heart failure yet. People in this stage might have had a previous heart attack or a heart valve disease.
In stage C, the person has been diagnosed with heart failure and has experienced symptoms of the condition. Symptoms of heart failure include:
- Feeling short of breath.
- Swelling in the legs.
- Trouble breathing when lying down.
- Being unable to exercise.
People who are in stage C can regain much of their previous function and live a good quality of life if they follow the doctor’s advice. They will need to take medications and make lifestyle changes to reduce symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.
People who are in stage D have structural damage to the heart. Their symptoms are serious and even occur when they are resting. At this point, the doctor may suggest advanced treatment methods, such as a heart transplant or mechanical heart pump. If there are no viable treatment options, the doctor may recommend end-of-life planning and care.
No matter what stage of heart failure your older family member is in, home care services can help them to manage the condition. A home care services provider can remind the senior to take medications. They can also cook healthy, low-salt meals. Home care services providers can also help the senior to exercise by going for walks with them, driving them to an exercise class, or keeping them physically active at home.