Causes of heart failure
In most cases, heart failure is caused by another health problem. Some of these problems damage the heart muscle, so the heart isn't able to pump as well as it should. Other problems make the heart work harder, which can weaken the heart by tiring it out.
Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary arteries supply blood and oxygen to the heart muscle. Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) is caused by atherosclerosis (also called hardening of the arteries). This condition occurs when plaque (deposits of fat, cholesterol and other materials) collects in the walls of the arteries. As plaque builds up, the arteries narrow. This reduces blood flow to the heart muscle. The heart muscle can't get enough oxygen-rich blood to work normally. The muscle can weaken, and heart failure can develop.
A heart attack occurs when CAD gets so bad that part or all of the coronary artery is blocked. This stops blood flow to part of the heart muscle. Without oxygen-rich blood, this part of the heart is permanently damaged. The damaged portion of the heart muscle loses its ability to pump. This means that after a heart attack, the rest of the heart muscle must work harder. Over time, the strained heart muscle weakens. Heart failure can develop.
High blood pressure
Blood pressure measures how hard blood pushes against the artery walls as it travels through the arteries. High blood pressure (also called hypertension) occurs when blood pushes harder than normal. This makes your heart work harder. Over time, the heart's chambers may enlarge. If high blood pressure isn't controlled, the heart muscle eventually stretches and weakens. This leads to heart failure.
Valve disease occurs when the valves between the heart's chambers don't open or close properly. Healthy valves keep blood moving forward. If a valve doesn't open fully, your heart has to work harder to push blood through. If the valve doesn't close tightly, blood leaks back into the chamber, making the heart pump some of the same blood through the valve again. This extra work can weaken the heart and lead to heart failure.
Cardiomyopathy is a diseased heart muscle. Some causes include infections, alcohol abuse and the toxic effects of certain drugs (such as cocaine or cancer medications). Cardiomyopathy can also be inherited. The chambers enlarge and the heart muscle stretches and weakens. The stretched, weakened muscle can cause heart failure.
Related health problems
Certain health problems can strain the heart and make it more likely to weaken. Diabetes makes coronary artery disease and heart failure more likely to occur. Chronic kidney problems can cause water retention, which means the heart has to pump more fluid and work harder. A rapid or irregular heartbeat may occur along with heart failure. Over time, this can weaken the heart further. Heart failure is also more likely if you have severe anemia, an overactive thyroid, or congenital heart defects. Your doctor will explain whether any of these health problems are related to your heart failure.
To learn more aboutcardiac services at Baptist Health Paducah, including the Baptist Heart Center, phone Baptist Health Line at (270) 575-2918. If you are experiencing chest pain, speak to one of our cardiac nurses at the Chest Pain Hotline, 1-800-575-1911.
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