Doctors and Scientists categorized heart failure into 4 different stages. Those stages are called A, B, C, and D. Stage A and B do not require medications or surgery all the time but need medical attention and lifestyle changes. Stage C and D are severe and need higher medical attention.
This article is basically based on those 4 stages of HF to make people aware worldwide. Stage A and B patients can easily manage their lifestyle and keep their hearts well with the advice of professional health care providers. Stage C and D may require something much more.
Defining Heart Failure and 4 Stages
Heart failure is a term that describes a condition in which the heart is unable to pump blood efficiently. This can lead to symptoms such as shortness of breath and swelling of the legs.
In adults with heart failure, most people first experience mild symptoms that don’t require treatment or lifestyle changes, says Dr. David Baron, an interventional cardiologist at Stanford University School of Medicine in California.
By the time they reach stage C—when doctors diagnose most people with chronic heart failure—their hearts no longer pump enough blood throughout their bodies. “At this point, they need medications and sometimes surgery to help manage their condition,” he says.
Stage A is the earliest stage of heart failure, characterized by mild symptoms. The patient will likely experience a slight reduction in ejection fraction (the volume of blood that the left ventricle pumps out with each contraction) due to increased pressure inside the heart.
Left ventricular end-diastolic pressure is also slightly elevated, but this isn’t necessarily abnormal for an otherwise healthy person.
For example, if you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol and have been prescribed medication for these conditions, this may put you at risk for developing Stage A heart failure.
Stage B is also called mild heart failure. Symptoms of this stage include shortness of breath and fatigue. Treatment for Stage B includes medications and lifestyle changes, such as losing weight and exercising regularly.
The prognosis for people with Stage B is generally good, but it’s important to see your doctor if you experience symptoms so they can be managed properly.
Medications may be prescribed at this stage to prevent future problems. In this stage, ACE inhibitors, ARBs, and ARNIs are usually prescribed by a doctor.
When HF reaches this stage, patients will start showing symptoms associated with underlying structural heart disease, such as fatigue and breathlessness, as well as other symptoms. In most cases, these symptoms are caused by problems with the chamber of the heart responsible for pumping blood, known as the left ventricle.
A person in Stage C of heart failure may no longer exhibit symptoms but may be undergoing treatment for previous symptoms, such as those who have spent time in the hospital due to an acute exacerbation of heart failure.
Symptoms in Stage C
Patients in Stage C of HF may experience:
- Fatigue/ Tiredness
- Breathing difficulties
Medications will be prescribed at this stage to manage and prevent future problems. At this point, doctors commonly prescribe diuretics, ACE inhibitors/ARBs/ARNIs, beta-blockers, mineralocorticoid receptor blockers, or SGLT2 inhibitors.
During this stage, doctors may consider implantable cardioverter-defibrillators and cardiac resynchronization therapy.
Stage D is the final stage of heart failure, and symptoms are similar to those in Stage C. As your body begins to fail, you may experience fatigue and shortness of breath. This is the most vital stage of HF and people started experiencing the worst symptoms.
Stage D is the most advanced stage of structural heart disease, which will exhibit significant symptoms, regardless of whether the individual is at rest or not.
Symptoms Of Stage D
Several symptoms may be present in Stage D HF patients; some of them are:
- Breathing difficulties
- Legs, arms, hands, and ankles swell
- Tiredness/ Fatigue
- Feeling nauseated
- The heart beats rapidly
- Gaining weight
- Feeling lightheaded
- Cough that persists
The severity of this stage may require advanced specialized treatment. Some examples include a mechanical circulatory support system, continuous inotropic infusions to increase the heart’s pressure, a cardiac transplant, or hospice care.
FAQ on Stages Of Heart Failure
Heart failure is a progressive condition in which the heart muscle weakens and is unable to pump blood efficiently. It is a leading cause of hospitalization and death in the United States.
There are different stages of heart failure, and each stage requires different treatment. The goal of treatment is to improve the quality of life and prolong survival.
Q: What are the stages of HF?
Ans: There are 4 stages of HF, and those are categorized based on the severity. Classified as A, B, C, and D.
Q: With stage D/4 heart failure, how long can you live?
Ans: There is no exact estimation, but generally, doctors say that once heart failure progresses to Stage D, patients suffer from poor quality of life, high symptom burden, and a median life expectancy of only 6–12 months can be expected.
Q: Is it possible to return to normal after heart failure?
Ans: It may not be possible to make the heart work like before after an HF, but proper medications and treatment may slow down the worsening period.
Q: Is shortness of breath a sign of heart failure?
Ans: Shortness of breath could be a sign of stage B, C, or D heart failure. But the symptom can also occur for so many reasons. Do not get panicked before consulting a health care provider and check if you have an HF or not.
Q: What is the prognosis for Stage 4 heart failure?
Ans: End-stage heart failure cannot be cured. At this stage, people must make difficult decisions about how much treatment they want without sacrificing their quality of life.