Not freaking out (yet)

I’m searching “”congestive heart failure” “life expectancy”” on Google. So far I’m finding a bunch of articles that say life expectancy depends on the severity of the failure and that life expectancy is shortened. I’ve only found one article that actually gives numbers, and it was last updated in 2003, so I’m not sure how much it can be trusted.

I think the word a sympathetic news anchor reporting on these numbers would use is “sobering”.

Although many people with heart failure live for many years, up to 70% of people die of the disorder within 10 years. Life expectancy depends on how severe the heart failure is, whether its cause can be corrected, and which treatment is used. About half of people who have mild heart failure live at least 10 years, and about half of those who have severe heart failure live at least 2 years.

So, assuming this article is accurate, and assuming my heart failure is mild (which I think is a safe assumption given that I’m able to work), I still only have a 50/50 chance of living for just ten more years.

But I have to remind myself that four years have passed since this article was written. Maybe something is different now.

I will try not to freak out too much until I see my cardiologist next week and ask her about it.

However, if it turns out that not much has changed and I am not going to live much past a decade from now–if even that–then some things are going to have to change in my life. I won’t be able to put off all the stuff I want to do until later. And I won’t have to plan for retirement, either, which means I won’t have to feel guilty about spending the money. The first priority will be moving back to Kentucky, and after that, getting to England to see Brooke, and getting back to Japan.

And of course, I will do my best to live as long as possible, which means listening to my doctors and taking care of myself. I can’t eat like I’ve eaten my entire life anymore. I have to eat lean meats, vegetables, no fried food. No more desserts. A lot fewer starches/carbohydrates. Heart-healthy stuff. And I need to go ahead and get a treadmill because aerobic exercise is recommended, on days when I feel up to it.

I had a Slim-Fast for breakfast, a Chick-fil-A Cool Wrap with a fruit cup and Diet Dr Pepper for lunch, and a swordfish steak, baked potato, and steamed veggies for dinner, but while those were healthier options than my usual, I will need to move away from eating out as much as possible–it adds too much sodium.

There may be nothing to worry about; iVillage has a list of questions for CHF patients to ask their doctors, and one of them is “Is my heart failure likely to seriously affect my life expectancy?” which suggests that some heart failure might not (although maybe this question is there because it usually does, but I’m an optimist). But regardless of what I hear at the doctor’s, I am going to work to make these changes in my life so I can be healthier.