What Is Congestive Heart Failure, and Is It Terminal?

Congestive heart failure, also simply called heart failure, means the heart is not pumping at its normal healthy level, according to Mayo Clinic. Congestive heart failure is not necessarily terminal, but it can be life-threatening in some cases, especially without proper treatment.

Overall health, age and some extraneous complications can affect a person's outlook after a diagnosis of congestive heart failure, Mayo Clinic reports. For example, heart failure can lead to damaged or failing kidneys, which can lead to dialysis or death if not treated. Improper blood pumping also puts added pressure on heart valves, which can lead them to fail in some cases. Heart failure also may increase fluid pressure and damage the liver.

Treatment depends on which of the four stages of heart failure the patient is considered to be in, WebMD explains. Patients in Stage A are simply at risk for heart failure, and recommendations include cessation of smoking and use of lipid blockers and ACE inhibitors. Meanwhile, people in Stage D have systolic heart failure and exhibit severe symptoms, at which point inotropic drugs, transplant or other surgeries, or end-of-life care are typical recommendations. The most optimal treatments are proactive and planned with doctors ahead of severe complications, so it is important to adhere to doctor recommendations during the process.