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Understanding the Stages of Dying from Congestive Heart Failure

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen • edited by: DaniellaNicole • updated: 1/17/2011

This article focuses on providing patient information on the stages of dying from congestive heart failure.

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    There are more than five-million people in the United States affected by heart failure and approximately 500,000 new cases are diagnosed every year. This condition leads to the heart becoming too weak to pump blood throughout all the areas of the body. This results in the body being deprived of the nutrients and oxygen that are necessary to keep the body functioning properly. This condition can be either chronic or acute. There are four stages of dying from congestive heart failure and during the last stage, the body ultimately shuts down.

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    Symptoms

    The chronic symptoms include:

    • Shortness of breath (particularly when lying down or when exerting oneself).
    • Weakness and fatigue.
    • Swelling in the ankles,legs, and feet.
    • Irregular or rapid heartbeat.
    • Decrease is the patient's ability to exercise.
    • Persistent wheezing or cough with pink or white blood-tinged phlegm.
    • Abdominal swelling.
    • Sudden weight gain (caused by fluid retention).
    • Nausea and no appetite.
    • A reduction in alertness and trouble concentrating.

    The acute symptoms include:

    • Those symptoms experienced by patients with chronic heart failure, but they begin suddenly, are more severe, and worsen suddenly.
    • Shortness of breath that is severe and begins suddenly accompanied by coughing up a foamy, pink mucus.
    • Sudden fluid build-up.
    • Chest pain.
    • Irregular or rapid heartbeat.

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    Stages of Dying

    The four stages of dying from congestive heart failure will affect each patient differently, but there are certain symptoms and affects that most patients will experience.

    • Stage 1: During the first stage, also referred to as the initial stage, patients may not experience any symptoms. Most will notice that they become tired a little faster when participating in physical activities, but for most patients this small increase in activity-induced fatigue is too small to cause alarm. Many patients write if off as getting older.
    • Stage 2: During this stage, the patient's fatigue often becomes more pronounced when they perform physical activity. Patients may also experience heart palpitations (irregular or rapid heartbeat) during light exercise. In most cases, these symptoms often disappear or lessen when the patient rests.
    • Stage 3: During this stage, many patients experience no symptoms when they are resting, but can experience shortness of breath and fatigue when performing some normal everyday tasks and chores. Patients in stage three often find themselves severely limited, or completely unable to exercise or perform physical activity.
    • Stage 4: During this stage, which is the final stage, patients find that their day to day lives and normal chores and activities are severely affected. They put additional strain on their heart and experience fatigue, sometimes severe, with any form of exercise or physical activity. Patients can even experience symptoms when resting at this stage making breathing difficult and showing that the heart is not able to function properly.

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    Resources

    Methods of Healing. (2010). The Stages of Dying from Congestive Heart Failure. Retrieved on January 24, 2010 from Methods of Healing: http://www.methodsofhealing.com/the-stages-of-dying-from-congestive-heart-failure/

    Mayo Clinic. (2010). Heart Failure. Retrieved on January 24, 2010 from the Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/heart-failure/DS00061