Heart Failure: Symptoms, Causes, Risk Factors and Types



In our previous article on this topic, we promised to have a follow up which notes the symptoms and causes of these major Heart ailments. We hope the initial article was helpful and allowed you gain a little more knowledge on this important health topic.

This is the second of the three-part article.

Keeping with the theme of the original article, this is going to be succinct and straight to the topic to be discussed. We will exclusively use these explanations as compiled by Christian Nordqvist. These are easily understandable points that could help our lifestyle and how well we can also be of help to those who suffer from any heart ailment.


Heart failure is caused by any conditions that damage the heart muscle. These include:

Coronary artery disease – the coronary arteries supply the heart muscle with blood. If these are blocked or the flow is reduced, the heart does not receive the blood supply it needs.

Heart attack – a sudden block of the coronary arteries; this causes scars in the heart’s tissues and decreases how effectively it can pump.

Cardiomyopathy – damage to the heart muscle other than by artery or blood flow problems; for instance caused by drug side effects or infections.

Conditions that overwork the heart – for instance, valve disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, kidney disease, or heart defects present from birth.

Risk Factors:

The following are risk factors for congestive heart failure; they may make it more likely:

Diabetes – especially diabetes type 2.

Obesity – people who are both obese and have diabetes type 2 have an increased risk.

Smoking – people who smoke regularly run a significantly higher risk of developing heart failure.

Anemia – a deficiency of red blood cells.

Hyperthyroidism – overactive thyroid gland.

Hypothyroidism – underactive thyroid gland.

Myocarditis  inflammation of the heart muscle, usually caused by a virus, leading to left-sided heart failure.

Heart arrhythmias – abnormal heart rhythms, they may cause the heart to beat too fast, creating more work for the heart. Eventually the heart may weaken, leading to heart failure. If heartbeat is too slow not enough blood may get out from the heart to the body, leading to heart failure.

Atrial fibrillation – an irregular, often rapid heart beat; patients with atrial fibrillation have a higher risk of hospitalization due to heart failure, a study found.

Emphysema – a chronic disease that makes it hard for the patient to breathe.

Lupus – the patient’s immune system attacks healthy cells and tissues.

Hemochromatosis – a condition where iron accumulates in the tissues.

Amyloidosis – one or more organ systems in the body accumulate deposits of abnormal proteins.

Others are: Recreational drug abuse, personal or family history of certain abnormal heart rhythms, Taking drugs that are “pro-arrhythmic” may increase the risk for life-threatening arrhythmias, history of congenital heart defects or blood vessel abnormalities, prior episode of heart failure or related heart issues etc.


Symptoms of heart failure may include irregular and rapid heartbeats.

The following are possible symptoms of heart failure:

Congested lungs – fluid builds up in the lungs and causes shortness of breath even when resting and particularly when lying down. It can also cause a hacking, dry cough.

Fluid retention – because less blood is being pumped to the kidneys, it can cause water retention. This can cause swollen ankles, legs, and abdomen. It can also cause weight gain and increased urination.

Fatigue and dizziness – because less blood is reaching the organs of the body, it can cause feelings of weakness. Because less blood is reaching the brain it can also cause dizziness and confusion.

Irregular and rapid heartbeats – to try and counteract the lack of blood being pumped with each contraction of the heart, the heart might pump more quickly.

Heart failure shares symptoms with other conditions, and if anyone has the symptoms, it does not mean they have heart failure.

However, anyone who experiences more than one of the symptoms should tell their doctor and ask for an evaluation of their heart.

People who have been diagnosed with heart failure should monitor their symptoms carefully and report any sudden changes to their doctor immediately.


There are many different types of heart failure:

Left-sided heart failure

Left-sided heart failure is the most common form of congestive heart failure. The left side of the heart is responsible for pumping blood to the rest of the body. Blood backs up into the lungs as it is not effectively pumped away from the heart. This can cause shortness of breath and fluid buildup.

Right-sided heart failure

The right side of the heart pumps blood to the lungs where it collects oxygen. Right-side failure is, most often, caused by fluid build-up in the lungs due to left-side failure. Sometimes it can occur due to other conditions, including lung disease.

Diastolic heart failure:

This occurs when the heart muscle is stiffer than normal. Because the heart is stiff, it does not fill up with blood properly; this is known as diastolic dysfunction.

Because the heart does not fill up with blood, it cannot pass as much blood around the body as is necessary. This can occur on either side of the heart.

Systolic heart failure:

Systolic dysfunction describes the heart’s inability to pump efficiently after filling with blood. It often occurs if the heart is weak or enlarged. This can occur on either side of the heart.

In our next installment (and last on this article) on this particular series, we will take a look at the Diagnosis, Prevention and Management, Treatments and Medications, and Surgery options of Heart Failure.

written by Adebowale Adejugbe

Heart Failure: Symptoms, Causes, Risk Factors and Types

About The Author
- Founder of Cardiac Community

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