In heart failure, the heart is unable to pump the right amount of blood throughout the body. This causes blood to back up in the veins. Depending on which part of the heart is affected, this can lead to a buildup of excess fluid in the lungs, feet, and elsewhere. Heart failure can worsen with time, which may lead to the use of many treatments. Because of this, doctors are aggressive in treating heart failure to try to prevent it from worsening.
Blood Flow through the Heart
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The leading causes of heart failure are:
Other common causes include:
Other less common causes include:
Heart failure is more common in older adults, men, and people of African American descent.
Factors that increase your chances of getting heart failure include:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
Your heart may be examined. This can be done with:
Heart failure may be caused by another condition. Treating this condition should improve your heart failure or prevent it from getting worse.
The following lifestyle changes can help treat the symptoms of heart failure and slow down its progression:
Your doctor will most likely prescribe a combination of medications, such as:
You may also be given medications to:
Your doctor may advise you to take supplements, such as coenzyme Q10. Follow your doctor's advice regarding taking any supplements.
If heart failure worsens, you may need medical devices to help your heart pump blood properly.
Note: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen can worsen your condition. Talk to your doctor about other medications you may be able to take.
The best way to prevent heart failure is to reduce your risk of:
Take these steps to reduce your risk:
American College of Cardiology
American Heart Association
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
ACCF/AHA Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Heart Failure in Adults. A Report of the American College of Cardiology Foundation/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation. 2009;119(14):1977-20016.
Congestive heart failure. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/CongenitalHeartDefects/TheImpactofCongenitalHeartDefects/Congestive-Heart-Failure_UCM_307111_Article.jsp. Updated January 24, 2011. Accessed September 29, 2014.
Heart failure exercise/activity guidelines—exercise. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/Heart_Failure/hic_Heart_Failure_Exercise-Activity_Guidelines.aspx. Accessed September 29, 2014.
Hunt, SA, Abraham, WT, Chin, MH, et al. ACC/AHA 2005 Guideline Update for the Diagnosis and Management of Chronic Heart Failure in the Adult: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation . 2005;112:e154.
Hunt SA, Baker DW, Chin MH, et al. ACC/AHA guidelines for the evaluation and management of chronic heart failure in the adult. American College of Cardiology Foundation (ACCF). 2005;46(6):e1-82.
Lifestyle changes for heart failure. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartFailure/PreventionTreatmentofHeartFailure/Lifestyle-Changes-for-Heart-Failure_UCM_306341_Article.jsp. Updated September 20, 2012. Accessed September 29, 2014.
Paterna S, Parrinello G, Cannizzaro S, et al. Medium term effects of different dosage of diuretic, sodium, and fluid administration on neurohormonal and clinical outcome in patients with recently compensated heart failure. Am J Cardiol. 2009;103:93-102. Epub 2008 Oct 17.
Physical changes to report. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartFailure/PreventionTreatmentofHeartFailure/Physical-Changes-to-Report_UCM_306356_Article.jsp. Updated June 30, 2014. Accessed September 29, 2014.
What is heart failure? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/Hf/HF_WhatIs.html. Accessed March 27, 2014. Accessed September 29, 2014.
4/16/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Nilsson BB, Westheim A, Risberg MA. Effects of group-based high-intensity aerobic interval training in patients with chronic heart failure. Am J Cardiol. 2008 Nov 15;102:1361-1365. Epub 2008 Sep 11.
7/6/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Levitan EB, Wolk A, Mittleman MA. Consistency with the DASH diet and incidence of heart failure. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169:851-857.
8/31/2009 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Djoussé L, Driver JA, Gaziano JM. Relation between modifiable lifestyle factors and lifetime risk of heart failure. JAMA. 2009;302:394-400.
3/5/2013 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Dinicolantonio JJ, Pasquale PD, Taylor RS, et al. Low sodium versus normal sodium diets in systolic heart failure: systematic review and meta-analysis. Heart. 2013 Jan 24. [Epub ahead of print.]
11/25/2013 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance. http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Madmani ME, Solaiman AY, et al. coenzyme Q10 for heart failure. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Sep 18;9.
4/2/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Choosing wisely. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated March 26, 2014. Accessed April 2, 2014.
Last reviewed September 2015 by Michael J. Fucci, DO
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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