Heart failure when you are young

Heart failure affects mostly older people; however, young people can also have heart failure. All the information that you find on heartfailurematters.org applies to people of any age. However, some of the examples that are used might not appeal to you as a young person and you may find yourself in a specific situation that requires additional information.

If you have any additional questions or worries, we recommend you get in contact with your healthcare professionals.

Activities, work, travel and sports

As you can read in the ‘Living with heart failure’ section, it’s important to stay active but also to adapt your activities to your own specific situation. This is relevant for heart failure patients of all ages. As a young person, you might consider different activities such as slow jogging or biking. If you are considering doing more intensive sports, such as skiing or mountain climbing, you should consult your cardiologist.

You also might need to consider specific arrangements for travel (see the ‘Travel’ section) including the risk of altitude sickness when in high altitudes, being sure of medical back-up in case of emergencies and considering precautions for infections or exhaustion. For example, when travelling with a group of friends or family to an amusement park you might need to find out what kind of rides you can go on with a heart condition, if you can skip long queues and if there are specific places you can rest in case you need to.

When you are young and living with heart failure, specific challenges also occur in finding a future job. Having a job or career, even if only part-time or for a few hours a week, can be very beneficial for having a sense of purpose and maintaining self-esteem. A job helps you to keep active, socialise and enjoy a "normal" life. Together with a healthcare provider or a job advisor, it’s important to consider what is still possible for you and what your future expectations are. For example, a career that involves heavy lifting or demanding physical effort wouldn’t be realistic.

Social contact and relationships

Living with heart failure might affect your ability to engage in social activities or meet people and some young people feel insecure in establishing a relationship. Some people prefer to socialise with other young people with a physical limitation, while others don’t want to feel ‘special’ or share their worries and concerns with friends. Be true to your own feelings and consider what works best for you. 

If you do have a relationship and want to talk about your condition, you could explore this website together with your friend or family member and talk about what it means for you.

In case of sexual concerns or contraception, talk to your doctor or nurse to find out what is the best option for you.

If you plan on having a baby, you should discuss this carefully with your doctor or nurse. You shouldn’t think that having heart failure means that you can’t get pregnant or carry a pregnancy to term; this is often possible, but your pregnancy will have to be carefully managed and monitored.

Having heart failure in a family with young children

Having young children might be an additional challenge in living with heart failure. Sleep deprivation, carrying children around and playing with energetic children might add to the fatigue that a person with heart failure already needs to cope with. Additional help from family and friends for heavy lifting and carrying might be needed. You might also need to find tips and tricks to conserve your energy and be more creative in finding sports and activities for your children so they can play freely without you having an active role (e.g. trampolines, team sports, playing in your local park).

Grown-ups with congenital heart disease

Some patients may develop heart failure shortly after birth. This is often due to congenital heart disease, which may involve abnormal connections between the left and right side of the heart, sometimes together with valve abnormalities. Such patients may require heart surgery early in life and need special treatments. These patients with special needs are often referred to “Grown-ups with congenital heart disease” (GUCH). The advice on this website also applies to this type of patient.