Causes of congestive heart failure

The most common cause is coronary artery disease. Also known as atherosclerosis, this disease narrows the blood vessels that supply the heart. Coronary artery disease can deprive the heart muscle of needed oxygen and cause it to weaken. There are also other causes of congestive heart failure including high blood pressure, damage to the heart muscle from heart attacks or infections, severe lung disease, and problems with heart valves. Those who are obese, have diabetes, chronic kidney disease, or an abnormal heartbeat (arrhythmia) are much more likely to develop congestive heart failure.

How does the disease progress?

Congestive heart failure is a condition that worsens over time. In the early stages of CHF, the heart tries to compensate for its reduced efficiency by enlarging, increasing its muscle mass and pumping faster. Eventually, the heart cannot keep up with all the needs of the body even by compensating. This causes shortness of breath, loss of energy, and other problems. Many patients first visit a doctor when they experience these symptoms.

Diagnosing congestive heart failure

Only a doctor can diagnose CHF. Different tests are used including echocardiography, chest x-rays, cardiac catheterization, stress and blood tests, as well as other tests. Your doctor will determine the proper tests to examine how well your heart is working and whether or not you have congestive heart failure.

Living with the disease

Congestive heart failure is a progressive, chronic illness for which there is no cure. It is a long-term condition that worsens over time. Although symptoms of the disease can be treated, there is no cure. However, with proper care, people can live many years with congestive heart failure.

Learn more about our Heart Failure Program here.