Causes and Diagnoses

Causes and Diagnoses of Heart Failure

Your heart contracts and relaxes in order to pump blood throughout your body. Heart failure often occurs when another problem or disorder makes your heart weak or stiff, so that it isn’t able to pump blood or relax normally. Heart attack is the most common cause of heart failure. Other causes include:

  • Abnormal heart valves or heart rhythm
  • Alcohol use
  • Cardiomyopathy (diseases of the heart muscle)
  • Congenital heart defect
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Lung disease
  • Thyroid disease

Diagnosing heart failure

Heart disease can develop gradually, often making it difficult to diagnose and treat. People with early-stage heart disease may do well on minimal treatment for a long time, until they experience more serious symptoms, including heart failure.

Our cardiologists, cardiac surgeons and nurses work collaboratively to diagnose heart failure, determine the stage of the disease and plan the best course of treatment. Diagnosing heart failure is usually made with the help of tests that include blood tests, chest X-rays, electrocardiogram (ECG), echocardiogram, stress tests, CT scans and cardiac catheterization.

If you or someone you love is diagnosed with heart disease, you should receive consistent care and screenings to minimize long-term damage and the chance of developing heart failure.

Meet the Heart Failure Team

Northwestern Medicine Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute is a nationally recognized destination for those who require highly specialized cardiovascular care.