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Finding the Right Treatment for Heart Failure

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Common Causes of Heart Failure

Medically Reviewed By Daniel Jennings, PA-C

Heart failure is when your heart isn’t pumping blood as well as it should. This means it is unable to supply the rest of your body with the oxygen it needs. Heart failure can result from factors such as coronary artery disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and past heart attacks. You may be able to lower your risk of heart failure by following some healthy lifestyle practices. These can include getting regular physical activity, maintaining a moderate weight, reducing salt and alcohol intake, and avoiding tobacco use.

There are 2 main types of heart failure:

  • heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF)
  • heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF)

This article focuses on common causes of the first type, HFrEF.

Read on to learn more about some potential causes of heart failure and what you can do to lower your risk.

What are some common causes of heart failure?

An assortment of red and pink crocheted hearts
Kate Ili/Stocksy United

Congestive heart failure is commonly caused by a few different conditions.

Coronary artery disease

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Governmental authority Go to source , coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease in the United States. It results from the buildup of a waxy substance called plaque inside your coronary arteries. These arteries supply blood to your heart muscles.

When the heart muscles don’t get enough oxygen from the blood, the heart may start to weaken. This can result in heart failure.

If enough plaque builds up to block blood flow, you may also experience angina, a type of chest pain.

Learn more about treatments for coronary artery disease.

Diabetes

Diabetes is one of the most common causes Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source of heart failure. It can affect insulin production in your body and make it harder for your cells to use glucose. This can lead to both high blood pressure and coronary artery disease, which can result in heart failure.

Learn more about the connection between heart disease and diabetes.

High blood pressure

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, refers to a buildup of pressure inside the arteries. Higher blood pressure means your heart has to work harder, which can cause it to change shape. If your heart becomes enlarged, this can lead to weakening of the muscles and heart failure.

Learn about 10 complications of high blood pressure.

History of heart attacks

A heart attack, or myocardial infarction, occurs when an artery supplying blood to the heart muscles becomes blocked. These muscles may then become damaged due to a lack of oxygen Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source , reducing the heart’s ability to pump blood.

Learn more about the types of heart attacks.

Atypical heart valves

Some people may have issues with their heart valves. According to the American Heart Association (AHA) Trusted Source American Heart Association Highly respected national organization Go to source , these issues can result from congenital conditions, infections, or diseases.

If the valves don’t function as they should, the heart needs to work harder to keep blood moving through the body. This can result in the heart becoming overworked.

Obesity

Obesity can cause the heart to become overworked.

People with obesity are at greater risk Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source of heart failure and its contributing factors. These include coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, and sleep apnea.

Learn about 10 health dangers of obesity.

Sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by the reduction or complete blockage of airflow while you sleep. It is connected to many of the causes of heart failure.

According to the American Thoracic Society (ATS), sleep apnea can lead to hypertension, irregular heartbeats, and coronary artery disease.

In addition, the ATS states that low oxygen levels associated with sleep apnea can damage blood vessels in the heart. This can cause it to work harder than usual, leading to reduced function.

Learn 5 things you need to know about sleep apnea.

What are some less common causes of heart failure?

Less common causes of heart failure can include:

  • Irregular heartbeats: Also called arrhythmias, these can impair the heart’s ability to pump blood to the rest of the body.
  • Severe anemia: Anemia refers to when the body does not have enough red blood cells. This can lead to less oxygen in the body, causing the heart to become overworked Trusted Source American Heart Association Highly respected national organization Go to source .
  • Thyroid issues: Hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid, can cause the heart to become overworked.
  • Genetic disorders: Inherited conditions, such as familial dilated cardiomyopathy or familial hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, can lead to heart failure.

How can you reduce your risk of heart failure?

Heart failure may be preventable, even in people who are at high risk. The following are steps you can take to reduce your risk of heart failure:

  • Avoid using illegal drugs.
  • Reduce your alcohol intake.
  • Quit smoking, if you smoke.
  • Eat a balanced diet, including plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Limit salt and foods high in saturated fats.
  • Avoid foods and drinks with added sugar.
  • Maintain a moderate weight.
  • Stay physically active and try to get some physical activity on most days.
  • Work with your doctor to manage any underlying conditions that may contribute to heart failure.

Summary

Common causes of heart failure include coronary artery disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Less common contributing factors include arrhythmias and thyroid conditions.

There are steps you can take to lower your risk of heart failure. These include maintaining a moderate weight, getting regular physical activity, and eating a heart-healthy diet. Other steps include quitting smoking and reducing your alcohol intake.

Talk with your doctor about ways you can reduce your risk of heart failure.

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Medical Reviewer: Daniel Jennings, PA-C
Last Review Date: 2023 May 4
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