What conditions cause congestive heart failure?

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Dr. Poorna L. Nalabothu, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

In this video, Poorna Nalabothu, MD, with Heart Center at St. Mark's, explains the various causes of congestive heart failure, including hypertension and valvular heart disease.

Causes of heart failure include:

  • Coronary artery disease, including prior heart attack
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Valvular heart disease
  • Some arrhythmias

CHF results from a set of underlying conditions, such as:

  • Hypertension, or high blood pressure which increases the work of the heart, causing it to pump blood against higher resistance and therefore to generate more force.
  • Coronary artery disease is the cause of ischemia, inadequate oxygen supply to the heart muscle itself. This damages or destroys heart muscle tissue, and can lead to failure.
  • Valvular heart disease increases the heart's workload by causing improper blood flow through the heart.
  • Narrow valves (stenotic) restrict the flow of bloodand the heart has to work much harder to generate pressure to get blood through narrow valves.Leaky valves (regurgitant) allow blood to flow back again after it has been pumped out. This greatly increases the workload of the heart because it has to pump more blood with each beat.
  • An infection of the heart valves is called Endocarditis and can damage them.
  • Arrhythmias are abnormal heart rhythms that interrupt the normal filling and pumping cycle. When the heart beats too slowly, which is called bradycardia, then not enough blood gets pumped out.
  • Tachycardia means the heart beats too fast, and then the heart hasn't enough time to fill with blood. Either way, cardiac output is reduced.
  • With an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) there is increased overall rate of metabolism in the body. In this case the heart has to circulate blood more frequently in order to get the body's tissues an adequate supply of oxygen.
  • When there is a severe decrease in red blood cells (anemia), the supply of oxygen in circulated blood has been decreased, and so, the heart has to circulate blood more frequently.
  • Birth defects (congenital heart disease) are defects in the formation of the heart, and produce an additional workload for the heart. These defectgs might be abnormal formation of the walls between the chambers of the heart (such as hole in the heart), abnormal heart valve formation, or the positions of the blood vessels are abnormal.

Other causes of CHF include diseases such as Cardiomyopathy, which are diseases that affect the heart muscle itself. Also diseases affecting the paricardium (the sac surrounding the heart) will restrict the ability of the heart to stretch when it fills. Diseases such as constrictive pericarditis, a thickened sac, or pericardial tamponade, fluid in the sac, will both restrict the ability of the heart to fill.

Continue Learning about Heart Disease

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.