How long can you live with only one side of your heart functioning?

Lela asked...

I have friend who is a 43 year-old male and several years ago he had a heart attack.  He got pacemaker but in May of 2008 he had another heart attack and the doctors implanted a defibrillator in his chest.  One month ago, when he went to doctor, he said that the right side of his heart died and just left side is functioning.  How long he can he live?

Expert Answer

Carolyn Strimike, N.P. and Margie Latrella, N.P. are cardiac nurse practitioners specializing in the prevention of heart disease and stroke. They have over 40 years of nursing experience in Cardiology between them. The main goal of their work is to counsel, motivate and empower women to adopt healthy lifestyle choices.

First of all we are sorry to hear about your friend, unfortunately it is a relatively common problem. An implantable defibrillator is used when the heart muscle weakens, such as after a heart attack. The right side of the heart is normally smaller than the left side and is more prone to damage after a heart attack. Everyone responds differently to treatments and medications. It's very important to try and control other risk factors that can cause further damage such as blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and weight. People can live many years with only have of the heart muscle functioning but again each case is individual.