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What causes heart failure?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

There are several causes of heart failure. The most common cause is blockages in the heart arteries also called coronary artery disease or atherosclerosis (can be referred to as hardening of the arteries). This is the same disease that causes heart attacks. Other causes include, excessive alcohol intake, drug abuse with cocaine or methamphetamines, viruses, many years of high blood pressure, heart defects since birth or damaged heart valves (can also be caused by birth defects or caused by disease or aging). Sometimes the cause is never known.

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Heart failure is commonly caused by underlying conditions like coronary heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. The underlying illnesses weaken or damage the heart muscle.

Coronary heart disease is a narrowing of the arteries by fatty deposits, called plaque, restricting blood flow to the heart. Without enough blood, the heart muscle weakens or dies.

High blood pressure forces the heart to pump harder to circulate blood to the body. Over time, the heart may enlarge and stiffen limiting its ability to pump blood effectively.

Diabetes is a condition where the body cannot break down blood sugars properly. Over time, high blood sugar can weaken and damage the heart muscle and surrounding blood vessels. Other causes of heart failure include heart valve disease, inflamed heart muscle (myocarditis), irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), and heart defects at birth.

A heart attack or the long-term effects of high blood pressure causes heart failure. The condition occurs when the weakened heart muscle cannot maintain adequate blood flow to the body's tissues and organs. It is a serious health problem, and a major cause of death.

Heart failure can be treated, but cannot be cured. Once a patient receives a diagnosis of heart failure, the condition will require lifelong treatment.

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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.