Cardiology Heart Failure

What is the thing that Increases Your Risk?

Who gets heart failure? Some people are more likely to develop the condition. For example, because the heart’s squeezing ability tends to grow weaker over time, heart failure is more common as we age. But heart failure can affect people of all ages.

The most common causes of heart failure include coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, and heart attack. Other factors or conditions that can put you at risk include:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart rhythm problems
  • Valve problems
  • Certain congenital heart defects or other heart conditions that have damaged or place added strain on the heart
  • Obesity
  • Family history

In addition, some treatments for cancer (chemotherapy), certain thyroid conditions, and heavy alcohol or drug use have also been linked to damage to the heart muscle.

“Broken heart syndrome,” also known as Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, is usually brought on by severe stress.

African Americans are more likely to develop heart failure. Also, women tend to have more severe symptoms.

Exams and Tests

Heart failure is usually detected after a review of your full medical history, a physical exam and results from blood and/or cardiac imaging tests. Many patients first learn they have heart failure after going to the emergency room or hospital with symptoms, often shortness of breath with or without swelling.

Blood and/or imaging tests are used to assess any damage to your heart and to check how well it pumps blood. Your doctor may decide to order:

  • B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP): this is a simple blood test that’s a good initial test if someone has symptoms such as shortness of breath, but it is unclear if the heart is the reason
  • Standard blood tests such as kidney function, electrolytes, and thyroid function
  • ECG, chest X-ray
  • Heart imaging: usually an echocardiogram (ultrasound), or possibly a cardiac MRI scan
  • Cardiac catheterization, if needed

Many of these tests may be repeated over time to determine if your heart function is the same, better or worse with treatment.

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