Your doctor will diagnose heart failure based on your medical and family histories, a physical exam, and tests. Because the symptoms of heart failure also are common in other conditions, your doctor must:
- Find out whether you have a disease or condition that can cause heart failure, such as coronary artery disease (CAD), high blood pressure, or diabetes
- Rule out other causes of your symptoms
- Find any damage to your heart and measure how well your heart pumps blood
- Early diagnosis and treatment can help people with heart failure live longer, more active lives.
Medical and Family Histories
Your doctor will ask whether you or others in your family have or have had a disease or condition that can cause heart failure.
Your doctor also will ask about your symptoms. He or she will want to know which symptoms you've have, when they occur, how long you've had them, and how severe they are. The answers will help show whether and how much your symptoms limit your daily routine.
During the physical exam, your doctor will:
- Listen to your heart for sounds that aren't normal
- Listen to your lungs for the sounds of extra fluid buildup
- Look for swelling in your ankles, feet, legs, abdomen, and the veins in your neck
No one test shows whether you have heart failure. If you have signs and symptoms of heart failure, your doctor may order an EKG (electrocardiogram), a chest x ray, and a BNP blood test as initial tests.
This answer from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has been reviewed and/or edited by Dr. William D. Knopf.