Conditions that lead to congestive heart failure

Written by: Dr Rajan Sharma
Published: | Updated: 21/06/2023
Edited by: Karolyn Judge

Heart failure, or congestive heart failure, means that the heart is not pumping blood around the body as well as it used to because the heart has been weakened. It doesn't mean that the heart has stopped working but it needs support to work better. Heart failure cannot be cured but the symptoms can be controlled. Heart failure can either be an ongoing condition or one that can start very suddenly. It is often the result of a number of problems that affect the heart at the same time. Heart failure can also occur if the heart muscles become stiff, which is known as 'Stiff Heart Syndrome' or 'Isolated Amyloidosis'.


Leading cardiologist Dr Rajan Sharma takes a more detailed look at the heart conditions that can cause the heart to become weakened.  


What conditions can damage or weaken the heart?

  • Coronary artery disease (CAD) and heart attack

    CAD is the most common form, where arteries that supply blood to the heart become clogged with fatty substance. A heart attack occurs if the fatty deposits in the arteries rupture, which causes a blood clot to form and block blood flow to an area of the heart muscle.
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)

    If blood pressure is high, the heart works harder to circulate blood throughout the body. The heart muscle may become either too stiff or too weak to pump blood.
  • Cardiomyopathy

    Damage to the heart muscle, which can be caused by several diseases, infections, alcohol abuse and the toxic effect of drugs such as cocaine.
  • Faulty heart valves

    The heart can weaken over time from having to work harder to keep the blood flow as it should be due to a damaged valve. These can be fixed or replaced if found in time.
  • Heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias)

    Conditions such as atrial fibrillation, which are irregular and an abnormally fast heart rate.
  • Congenital heart disease

    A range of birth defects that affects how the heart works.
  • Other conditions

    Conditions such as diabetes, HIV, or a build-up of iron or protein may contribute to heart failure.



What are the symptoms of heart failure?

  • Shortness of breath (dyspnoea)
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Swelling of the legs, ankles and feet
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Coughing or wheezing with white or pink phlegm
  • Sudden weight gain from fluid retention
  • Lack of appetite, feeling nauseous
  • Chest pain if heart failure is caused by a heart attack



How is heart failure treated?

Heart failure needs lifelong management but the symptoms can improve and the heart can become stronger. It is usually treated with a combination of medications. In some cases, surgery is recommended to treat the underlying problem that led to the disease by a cardiologist




If you're looking for expert cardiology treatment for conditions like heart failure, arrange an appointment with Dr Sharma via his Top Doctors profile

By Dr Rajan Sharma

As an internationally recognised surgeon, Dr Rajan Sharma specialises in complex echocardiography, a pioneering technique that uses ultrasound to scan the heart. His other focuses include coronary and valvular heart disease, heart failure and hypertension.

Dr Sharma visits in his private clinic as well as serving as head of echocardiology at St. Georges Hospital. Dr Sharma is an invaluable member of numerous cardiology boards and an honorary lecturer at St Georges, University of London.

He is active in research and has seven book chapters, 22 review articles, 41 original articles as well as many case reports. He regularly presents at national and international meetings. Dr Sharma is committed to working with colleagues in a multidisciplinary format to improve patient care. He is committed to education and is co-director of a national imaging course.

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Overall assessment of their patients

  • Related procedures
  • Heart attack
    Hypertension (high blood pressure)
    Heart failure
    Injury valves
    Heart murmur
    Ambulatory electrocardiogram (Holter)
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