Heart failure

Impact of the diagnosis of heart failure

How people responded to their diagnosis of heart failure varied, and this could depend as much on the kind of information passed on by doctors at the time of diagnosis as on the diagnosis itself. One woman described her despair at realising the severity of the illness; she had cried and asked to go home. Reassurance from a doctor or nurse about what could be done to help could support people through the diagnosis.

It was often shocking for people to discover that they were seriously ill and hard to take it all in immediately. One woman said she felt very angry and thought 'why me?' but that the cardiologist gave her plenty of time to ask questions. Common reactions included feeling stunned, startled and numb; the first thought several people had was “how long have I got?” One man said he was so shocked by the news that nothing could be done for him that he couldn't think of anything to ask.

If people already understood something about their heart failure - for instance if they had had their tests explained to them or knew someone else who had heart problems - this could help reduce the fear. Several were able to ask doctors questions straightaway and had felt reassured that something could be done, and several determined to carry on with life as before. Another worry was thinking about the future security of their families, and one person said because he was concerned about his family he wanted to know his prognosis.

The impact a diagnosis had on partners and children also varied. One response from families was to try to cover up their devastation by putting on a brave face. Sometimes close relatives started to worry about their own state of health. A few people said their adult children became anxious when they wanted to know things about the illness that their parent/s couldn't answer and several were keen to get a second medical opinion; for instance two women who spoke little English were sent by their children for private medical consultations, tests and treatment. Although other family members often rallied around, in the end it was usually the wife, husband or partner of the sick person who shouldered the responsibility for helping their spouse come to terms with heart failure (see 'What carers think').


Last reviewed April 2016.
Last updated April 2016.



Please use the form below to tell us what you think of the site. We’d love to hear about how we’ve helped you, how we could improve or if you have found something that’s broken on the site. We are a small team but will try to reply as quickly as possible.

Please note that we are unable to accept article submissions or offer medical advice. If you are affected by any of the issues covered on this website and need to talk to someone in confidence, please contact The Samaritans or your Doctor.

Make a Donation to healthtalk.org

Find out more about how you can help us.

Send to a friend

Simply fill out this form and we'll send them an email