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What Causes Heart Failure?


 7 Major Contributors to Heart Failure and What You Can Do To Prevent It

  • Heart failure does not always mean that the heart stops beating entirely. It means that the heart’s function is impaired and it doesn’t beat as strong as it should because of an improper flow of blood / oxygen, a damaged muscle or a heart deformity.
  • Many people think that heart failure is something that a person cannot avoid if it is going to happen. This way of thinking is anything but realistic because there are a number of conditions that contribute to heart failure and an equal amount of steps that a person can take to avoid it happening to them.  Granted, there are situations where it simply can’t be avoided due to a combination of conditions.
  • Likewise, many people believe that only older people are at risk for heart failure. Once again, this is far from the truth, anything that damages the heart puts people at risk for heart failure.

Here are the top seven major contributors to heart failure:

  1. Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary Artery Disease

This condition limits the amount of blood flow and oxygen to the heart when the arteries that supply the heart with blood have become blocked or very narrowed.  The heart needs a certain amount of blood and oxygen to be able to function properly. When it’s need are not met it causes the heart to malfunction to an extreme degree, which results in heart failure.

  1. Heart Attacks

Heart Attacks

Heart attacks happen when an artery that supplies blood and oxygen to the heart becomes blocked in a very short amount of time.  With a cut off in blood and oxygen the heart cannot function properly and ultimately experiences heart failure.

  1. Cardiomyopathy

This is a condition that is not caused by improper blood flow or oxygen cut off.  It is caused by other forms of damage to the walls of the heart either by the overuse of alcohol or by drug abuse. It can also happen when there has been a long period of high blood pressure, an exceptionally fast heart rate, heart valve problems, or metabolic issues like obesity and diabetes.  Infections can also cause this condition to manifest.

  1. High Blood Pressure

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure can be caused by a multitude of things, the first of which is stress.

When people feel stressed, their heart starts pumping fast which puts a lot of strain on it, and can damage it to an irreparable degree.  Another one of the causes of high blood pressure is the use of stimulating drugs.  These drugs cause the heart to beat fast which puts strain on it and many other parts of the body, namely the kidneys.

  1. Irregular Heart Valves

Irregular Heart Valves.

When a heart valve is irregular, either stretched, stiff or blocked, it does not function properly to pump blood through a person’s body.  This can cause a lack of oxygen flow to the heart, which can cause it to weaken. This ultimately progresses to what is known as heart failure.

  1. Abnormal Heart Rhythms

Abnormal Heart Rhythms

An abnormal heart beat means that your heart either beats too slow or too fast, sometimes a combination of the two.  This makes the heart have to work harder and, over a longer period of time, can cause the muscles and valves to weaken.

  1. Blood Clots

Blood Clots

Blood clots have the potential to block off the heart valves.  This can cause the heart to become starved for blood and oxygen which weakens it .  This can cause heart attacks, strokes and sometimes even death.

  • The best ways to avoid heart failure is to take good care of your body by making frequent trips to the doctor (one to 4 times each year).
  • Eating a healthy diet that will not cause buildups in the blood stream
  • Avoid the use of heart stimulating medicine / drugs

Symptoms and Warning Signs of Heart Failure

Increased Heart Rate
  • Sometimes people will experience mild symptoms of heart failure, some will experience extreme symptoms. Others will not experience any symptoms at all.
  • Symptoms can be constant or they can come and go depending on the person.
  • The symptoms of heart failure vary greatly based on what is happening with your body and heart. If your heart is extremely weak, it is likely you will experience one or more of the following symptoms:
  1. Lung Congestion

Lung Congestion

Oftentimes with heart failure, fluid will back up into the lungs. This can cause wheezing, a frequent dry cough, and a difficulty breathing while exercising. You may also experience a shortness of breath either constantly or while doing various activities. This includes walking, running, and even lying down flat on your back. Sometimes it can feel like a person is sitting on your chest when you’re experiencing this symptom.

  1. Swelling of arms legs and face

Swelling of arms legs and face

Heart failure often causes fluid buildup. This can be responsible for the swelling of various parts of the body like arms, legs and abdomen, for seemingly no apparent reason.  This is caused by decreased kidney function which results in water retention.  This symptom can also be accompanied by a frequent need to urinate as well as bloating of the stomach.

  1. Fatigue or Feeling Lightheaded

Fatigue or Feeling Lightheaded

When the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the demands of the body, people suffering from heart failure may feel very tired a lot of the time. Feeling lethargic and feeling like you are unable to do normal everyday activities is a key sign of this symptom and it can really get in the way of a person’s ability to complete tasks.

  1. Lack of appetite/ upset stomach

Lack of appetite upset stomach

This annoying symptom is the result of a disruption in the digestive system. This is caused by the heart being unable to pump the proper amount of blood for the body to function properly. This symptom can be a feeling of being too full, or it can be an upset stomach.

  1. Confusion / Impaired Thinking

Confusion  Impaired Thinking

Confusion and memory loss are common symptoms of heart failure because the brain is not getting enough blood / oxygen to function properly. This can be identified by confusion when speaking or completing tasks. This is something that many family members and/or caregivers will notice first in a person, before a person is even diagnosed by a doctor.

  1. Increased Heart Rate

Increased Heart Rate

An increased heart rate is usually a good tip that there is something wrong with a person’s body.  In this case, we are talking about heart failure. The increase in heart rate is caused by the heart overworking itself in order to make up for a weakened muscle, valve or both.

This is a symptom that is also a cause of heart failure, so it is really one to watch out for because it can cause the heart problem to get worse.

  • Heart failure is not something to be taken lightly, if you or someone you know is experiencing more than one of the previously noted symptoms it is a very good idea to call a doctor and get checked out to see if you/ they are experiencing heart failure.

Treatment Options and Ways to Live With Heart Failure

Treatment Options and Ways to Live With Heart Failure

Heart failure can be a really scary thing to live with, especially if you don’t know what the different kinds of treatment require.

Firstly, depending on the circumstances, doctors will recommend a change in lifestyle. This can include:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Smoking clogs arteries
  • Increases heart rate and blood pressure

Tracking and limiting your fluid intake or taking diuretics (water pills) this is due to water retention losing weight or maintaining current weight, obesity can cause increased blood pressure. Additionally when you have already been diagnosed with heart failure, you should monitor your weight closely. If you lose or gain more than three pounds in a day, report to your doctor and follow any instructions he or she gives you.

Avoiding alcohol and stimulants, these substances increase your blood pressure and that is really not something that you want to encounter when you are suffering from heart failure.

Avoiding or limiting caffeine intake, again, this increases your blood pressure and should be avoided at all costs. Eat a heart-healthy diet, this means low in Trans and saturated fats. Be as physically active as possible, rehab treatment is a good starting point

Stress management, stress increases blood pressure, which can further damage your heart and make problems worse for you.

Monitoring blood pressure, if your blood pressure goes up considerably, you need to call the doctor, if it goes down considerably; you need to call the doctor. Get proper rest , rest allows your body to heal as much as it possibly can.  And it will also help to keep your blood pressure down if you aren’t being super active.

Avoid contracting the flu or pneumonia, these kinds of illnesses can cause heart failure to become worse because pneumonia in particular can spread to the blood and by extension, the heart. Avoid wearing super tight clothing because it restricts blood flow and when you’re dealing with something like heart failure, blood pressure matters.

Avoid sexual activity when your heart feels stressed. This is pretty self explanatory, sex gets your heart pumping faster, which increases your blood pressure and leaves the potential for more damage to your heart.

Another kind of treatment plan may involve the use of prescription medications that are used to increase, or decrease your blood pressure depending on what caused the heart failure to occur in the first place.  Some of the medicine classes used for the treatment of heart failure are as follows:

  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme (ACE) Inhibitors
  • Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers
  • Angiotensin-Receptor Neprilysin Inhibitors (ARNIs)
  • Beta Blockers
  • Aldosterone Antagonists
  • Hydralazine and isosorbide dinitrate
  • Diuretics
  • Anticoagulants (blood thinners)
  • Cholesterol lowering drugs (statins)

Devices and surgical procedures that can help with heart failure are: Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillator (ICD) also known as a pacemaker, Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy (CRT), Left ventricular assist device (LVAD), Heart transplantation, Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) (also referred to as angioplasty), Coronary artery bypass, and Valve replacement.

It is really important to take proper care of your body.  More so if you have been diagnosed with heart failure.  By not taking care of the problem, you run the risk of causing it to get much worse, to the point where many of the above treatments are not options, or if they are, they will do little to no good.

Symptoms of heart failure include:

  • Congested lungs
  • Swelling of arms and legs
  • Fatigue or feeling light headed
  • Lack of appetite/ nausea
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness

By getting checked regularly at the doctors, you can prevent some really nasty negative health effects caused by heart failure.  If you experience any of the symptoms of heart failure, be sure to go in to a doctor or the hospital and get checked out.

Differences between Heart Attack and Heart Failure

Heart Attacks

Many use the words heart attack and heart failure interchangeably when in fact they describe two different kinds of heart disease.  Very simply, heart failure describes incidents where the heart no longer has the ability to pump blood throughout the body. Whereas, a heart attack describes incidents where the heart tissue starts to die because of a lack of blood flow and eventually, through enough damage, stops working. Although both heart attack and heart failure are included in the larger category of heart disease, this article is outlining the distinctive differences between heart attacks and heart failure including the symptoms of each.

Heart Attacks

Heart Attacks

As stated earlier, the term heart attack describes incidents where the lack of blood flow causes the heart muscle to die and eventually stop working. The complete death of the heart muscle can occur over time with the occurrence of multiple small heart attacks or immediately, due to a very large heart attack. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year in the United States an average of 210,000 people have their first heart attack and at least 525,000 people have their second heart attack. This breaks down to a staggering statistic of one heart attack every 43 seconds!

There are five main symptoms of a heart attack:

  • Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back
  • Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Pain or discomfort in arms or shoulder, especially on left side
  • Shortness of breath

This disease is made more complicated because women often show different symptoms from men. The additional symptoms are:

  • Angina or a dull, heavy to sharp pain in the chest
  • Pain in the upper abdomen or back, sometimes described as sharp or burning

If these symptoms remind you of the list of symptoms for acid reflux, you have now recognized why it is so difficult to diagnosis women who are having heart attacks.

Heart Failure

Heart Failure

Unlike a heart attack, which actually will stop a heart from beating, heart failure does not stop the heart. Rather, heart failure weakens the heart so that it no longer can pump enough body throughout the body. Sometimes this is due to the heart not being able to fill with enough blood to pump out and in other cases; it is because the heart cannot pump with enough force.

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute 5.7 million people in the United States have heart failure. Since heart failure is not a respecter of age, both children and adults can be diagnosed with it. Currently, there is no cure for heart failure. Treatment is done through medication and life style changes.

Symptoms of heart failure are:

  • Swelling in the feet, ankles, legs, liver, abdomen, and veins in the neck due to fluid build up
  • Shortness of breath when you exert yourself or when you lie down
  • Persistent cough or wheezing with white or pink blood-tinged phlegm
  • Increased need to urinate at night
  • Rapid or irregular heart beat

Both Require Medical Attention

Heart attacks and heart failure kill thousands of people in the United States each year. Although there is no cure for either of the diseases, medical attention is mandatory. Lifestyle changes and medication can be used to help patients continue a long and productive health despite the diagnosis.

If you suspect that you or a loved one is having a heart attack, call 9-1-1 immediately. Do not drive to the hospital. Police, fire personnel, and rescue/ambulance personnel have all been trained in the emergency treatment of heart attacks. Your greatest chance of survival is proper care immediately.

Similarly, with heart failure, your best chance of survival is prompt medical attention. Do not wait to make a doctor’s appointment. Call your physician immediately if you have any of the symptoms of heart failure. Prompt treatment can reduce the damage heart failure can do to the heart muscle.

Causes and Prevention of Heart Failure

Causes and Prevention of Heart Failure

Heart failure occurs when the heart muscle is weakened to the point that it no longer can pump enough body throughout the body. Sometimes this is due to the heart not being able to fill with enough blood to pump out and in other cases it is because the heart cannot pump with enough force.  According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute 5.7 million people in the United States have heart failure.

Before we can talk about how to prevent heart failure, we should probably discuss what causes heart failure.

Coronary Artery Disease

  • Coronary artery disease or heart attack – Coronary artery disease is the main cause of heart failure. This disease starts with a buildup of plaque or fat in the arteries leading to the heart. Eventually, the buildup will constrict the blood flowing from and to the heart. The lack of oxygen supplied to the heart weakens the heart muscle causing the heart to not be able to pump enough blood throughout the body. The lack of oxygen will also cause some of the heart muscle to die, which in turn will cause heart attacks.

High Blood Pressure

  • High Blood Pressure – Blood pressure is the force needed to pump blood out to the organs and extremities. If blood pressure is high this indicates that the heart muscle must work harder than it should to pump enough blood throughout the body. This increased work on the muscle will eventually cause the heart muscle to thicken and get stiff. In this case, the stiffness of the heart would prevent it from pumping blood with the force needed to reach all parts of the body. The added stress on the heart muscle will eventually weaken it.
  • Faulty Heart Valves –Heart valves direct the blood from your heart out to your body. If a heart valve is found to be faulty (leaking or blocked) the heart must work harder to push the required amount of blood. Similar to high blood pressure, the added stress will weaken the muscle.

Damage to the heart muscle

  • Damage to the heart muscle – Damage to the heart muscle can occur for a myriad of reasons. Some genetic abnormalities may damage the heart. Other diseases or infections, such as HIV, diabetes, or hypothyroidism can damage the heart. Some treatments that cure other diseases, such as chemotherapy, have the potential to damage the heart muscle. Of course, alcohol and drug addiction will also damage the muscle.

Unlike a heart attack, which stops the heart from beating, heart failure makes the heart weak and incapable of working properly. This means that with early detection, heart failure can be reduced. Even more so, there are many ways to prevent heart failure from occurring:

To prevent heart failure:

  • Be physically active. This is defined as moderate walking or other aerobic activity for 2 hours-30 minutes per week or vigorously for 1 hour-15 minutes per week.
  • Follow a heart healthy eating plan. Ask your doctor for a heart healthy eating plan or for a referral to a dietary counselor for more information.
  • Stop smoking. Although current and past smoking causes damage to the heart, that damage can be repaired. Talk to your doctor about programs to help you quit smoking.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Talk to your doctor and dietary counselor on what your healthy weight should be and how to maintain the weight.

To reduce the effects of damage by other diseases or illnesses:

  • Follow all the guidelines above
  • Take your prescribed medications. Take all medications to keep high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV, or other illnesses in check.
  • Avoid using alcohol. If at all possible, alcohol should be eliminated from your diet. Talk to your doctor or dietary counselor on the best options for you.

How to Diagnose Heart Failure

How to Diagnose Heart Failure

In order for your doctor to perform a proper diagnosis of heart failure, he will carefully analyze your medical history, review the symptoms that you have and perform a physical examination. You will also be checked on whether you have risk factors, which include high blood pressure, diabetes, or coronary heart disease. The doctor will probably listen to your lungs, looking for signs of congestion. The other sounds that can suggest heart failure will be if the heart sounds abnormally. The doctor will most likely check other signs, which can include examining the veins in the neck or swelling in legs or abdomen.

In order to determine after physical exam whether you do or do not have the condition, the doctor will ask you to have some tests taken. Those can include:

Blood Tests

·        Blood Tests

In order to check the functionality of liver, kidneys and thyroid, the doctor needs to perform blood tests to find signs of other diseases that can negatively affect the heart. When the diagnosis is not certain, there can be a test performed to look for a chemical called NT-proBNP. This test can help with diagnosing heart failure.


·        X-Ray

If you have a chest x-ray performed, this will let your doctor see what is going on with your heart and lungs and which condition they are in. If there is a heart failure, then the heart on the photograph can look swollen and enlarged. The other conditions that can be related to the same symptoms as in heart failure can also be diagnosed on the x-ray.


·        Echocardiogram

This is very important for diagnosing heart failure. Echocardiogram will be able to show the doctor what type of heart failure there is. The procedure is applied by using sound waves to create a video image of the heart. In this video image, the doctor will be able to see the size and the shape of the heart as well as how well it is pumping blood around the body. The test can help to diagnose other heart problems, unusual cases of failure, or previous heart problems or heart attacks. The procedure is a very important test because it measures how well the heart is pumping blood, and this way it can help in classification of the heart failure and aid in establishing the treatment method.

Stress Test

·        Stress Test

When a doctor performs a stress test, it helps to measure how well the heart responds to exertion. The doctor can ask you to do an exercise, like walk on a treadmill or use a stationary bike to be able to perform the test. The other option is to receive a drug that can stimulate your heart in the same fashion as an exercise would do. In either case, exercise is an important stimulus. Those tests can help the health professionals to determine whether you have coronary artery disease and how well the body responds to the low ability of heart to pump blood. The test can help in determining what types of treatment a patient should be taking. The doctor can also see the pictures of your heart while you are doing the exercises. The doctor can perform some follow-up tests after the stress test.


·        CT or MRI

Those two abbreviations mean cardiac computerized tomography and magnetic resonance imaging. Those are both types of scanning the body in order to determine your condition. CT scan collects images of your heart and chest, and MRI broadcasts radio waves to produce signals in the body to determine what types of tissues are in there. Those signals create the images of heart, too.

Most Common Causes of Heart Failure

Heart Failure

In many cases, heart failure develops after other conditions or illnesses that damaged your heart. However, this is not a 100% requirement for the failure to occur, and it can happen at any time if the heart becomes too stiff. To be able to analyze heart failure and define how well the heart is working, there is a measurement called an ejection fraction. The heart is more likely to fail when there is something wrong with ejection fraction; however, certain conditions that cause the stiffening of the heart can provoke failure even when ejection fraction is normal. Here I decided to list the conditions that weaken the heart and can thus cause heart failure. Not all of the conditions the people are aware of and some of them can remain unnoticed until it is too late.


High Blood Pressure

·        High Blood Pressure

To define blood pressure, I will say that it is the force with which the blood is pumped through the arteries. When the blood pressure is higher than normal, the heart is required to work more intensely than it would otherwise work, in order to successfully circulate blood throughout the body.

When this problem continues for a long time, the heart muscle thickens, in order to be able to pump all the blood and to compensate for the extra work. This leads to either stiffening or weakening of the heart muscle, which prevents it from effectively pumping the blood and overall can lead to heart failure.

Damage to the heart muscle

·        Damage to the Heart Muscle

The damage to the heart muscle, or in medical terms, cardiomyopathy, can be caused by many factors, including intoxication, diseases, or use of drugs related to chemotherapy.

Heart Attacks

·        Heart Attack

The most common cause of heart failure is coronary artery disease, which is also the most commonly spread form of heart disease. With this disease, throughout the time, the arteries become more narrow, which can create the buildup of plaques, reduce blood flow to the heart and create the condition called atherosclerosis.

When the plaques rupture, the heart attack occurs. The rupturing leas to a formation of blood cloth, which blocks blood flow to the heart muscle. The heart thus becomes weakened and unable to pump blood at a usual pace. This leaves permanent damage on the heart. Depending on the significance of the damage, heart weakening may or may not occur.

·        Faulty Heart Valves

The heart has valves to ensure that the blood flows in proper direction. If the valves are damages, it becomes more difficult for the heart to keep up and pump the blood at a regular pace. The damage of heart valves can be caused by several factors, such as disease, defect or infection of the heart. The damaged valves can be detected and replaced

·        Myocarditis

The inflammation of the heart muscle is called myocarditis. It provokes left-sided heart failure and the most common cause for this is a virus.

·        Heart Defects By Birth

If there was a problem with formation of the heart valves or chambers that were already there from birth, the parts of the heart that were formed correctly have to work more intensely in order to compensate for those parts that do not work properly. This can weaken the heart and cause heart failure.

·        Arrhythmias

If you have a problem with abnormal heart rhythms, your heart can be beating too fast. If the heart is beating too fast, it requires extra work from it. This weakens the heart and can lead to heart failure. On the other hand, slow heartbeat prevents the heart from getting enough blood to the body.

How to Prevent Heart Failure

Work On Your Cholesterol Level

Many risks for heart diseases, including coronary artery disease and high blood pressure, can be naturally prevented by maintaining a healthy lifestyle in order to minimize your risk factors. When you can’t or don’t want to change your lifestyle, probably the only way for prevention will be taking certain medicine. But you don’t want to be on medicine for a long period of time or even your whole life, so let me tell you what lifestyle changes you can make to prevent heart-threatening diseases and heart failure.

Quit Smoking

Quit Smoking

I can’t emphasize more on that. If you are a smoker, quit. Give it up. This is your biggest chance to prevent coronary artery disease and heart failure. The smoke you get from cigarettes, from tobacco, damages your heart, forcing it to work harder, and can be the cause of its weakening.

Smoking is bad in several ways. It makes the blood thicker and it flow slower, which can increase the risk of developing blood clots and a condition called thrombosis. This condition damages the arteries, which can lead to a more serious disease, atherosclerosis, which is the main cause of coronary artery disease and stroke. Stop-smoking medicine can help you give up the cigarettes and save your heart.

Maintain Healthy Blood Pressure

Maintain Healthy Blood Pressure

When your blood pressure is too high, it makes the heart work harder on pumping the blood throughout the body. With that, the heart muscle becomes thicker over time, in order to be able to catch up with the new pace. If this happens, with time the muscle can end up being too weak or too stiff to be able to function properly.

If you regularly check your blood pressure and keep it at a healthy level, this can make significant changes in the situation if you already have it. Sometimes, for those with high blood pressure, it is required to regularly take medicines that put the blood pressure down to a healthy level when it’s too high. If you are suspecting that you might have high blood pressure, do not hesitate to consult your doctor.

Work On Your Cholesterol Level

Work On Your Cholesterol Level

If you have high levels of cholesterol, you are likely to be in danger of atherosclerosis, heart attack or stroke. With the constantly increasing level of cholesterol, the threat of coronary heart disease increases and increases the risk of heart failure. The combination of this factor with others, such as smoking or high blood pressure, puts you in even greater risk.

To reduce the cholesterol levels, a good way to start is to exercise regularly and go on a low-fat diet. In the situations when these changes in lifestyle do not help to reduce cholesterol level, it is very important to consult the doctor regarding the medicine to take.

·         Lose Weight

Overweight people are in higher risk of coronary disease or heart attack, because of the additional pressure on the heart. How can you lose weight?

·         Eat Healthy

Eating healthy can help whether you do or do not have the condition. It will lower your risks of developing coronary heart disease and will protect you from diabetes and some cancer types.

·         Be Active

Exercise regularly, in order to maintain a healthy weight. It doesn’t mean you have to purchase a gym membership or run a marathon, but a daily exercise will only help you.

·         Don’t Overindulge

Drinking too much alcohol too often puts you in danger of developing repeating high blood pressure, which can lead to heart failure. Heavy drinking over the course of several years or more can damage the heart muscle and provoke heart failure.