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.


Six niche centers within the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute offer patient focused, specialized care, making the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute a leading destination for both initial diagnoses and second opinions. These niche programs include physicians, nurses and a range of multidisciplinary specialists working with patients to navigate the complex health care system, ensuring continuity of care and a seamless shift from inpatient to outpatient services and ultimately home.

Contact Us
To schedule an appointment or inquire about services at the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, please call 312.NM.HEART (664.3278).

Cardiovascular Clinical Trials
For information regarding cardiovascular clinical trials:

Referring Physicians
Open communication and cooperation with referring physicians is a critical component of achieving high-quality care and minimizing the challenges that come with treating cardiovascular conditions. For physician-to-physician consultation regarding the best patient care, please contact the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at 312.NM.HEART (664.3278).

Six niche centers within the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute offer patient focused, specialized care, making the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute a leading destination for both initial diagnoses and second opinions. These niche programs include physicians, nurses and a range of multidisciplinary specialists working with patients to navigate the complex health care system, ensuring continuity of care and a seamless shift from inpatient to outpatient services and ultimately home.

Contact Us
To schedule an appointment or inquire about services at the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital, please call 847.53.HEART (534.3278).

Cardiovascular Clinical Trials
For information regarding cardiovascular clinical trials:

Six niche centers within the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute offer patient focused, specialized care, making the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute a leading destination for both initial diagnoses and second opinions. These niche programs include physicians, nurses and a range of multidisciplinary specialists working with patients to navigate the complex health care system, ensuring continuity of care and a seamless shift from inpatient to outpatient services and ultimately home.

Contact Us
To schedule an appointment or inquire about services at the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital or Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital, please call 630.232.0280

Cardiovascular Clinical Trials
For information regarding cardiovascular clinical trials: