Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine.
Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center

Causes of Heart Failure

Heart failure often results from conditions that stress, damage or weaken the heart, including:
» Coronary Artery Disease
» Heart Attack
» High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
» Heart Valve Disease
» Heart Muscle Damage (Cardiomyopathy)
» Heart Inflammation (Myocarditis)
» Congenital Heart Defects
» Abnormal Heart Rhythms (Heart Arrhythmias)

Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary artery disease (CAD), also called coronary heart disease (CHD), is the most common cause of heart failure. A fatty deposit called plaque builds up inside the coronary arteries—a process called atherosclerosis—causing the arteries to narrow and reducing blood flow to the heart. The heart becomes deprived of oxygen-rich blood and becomes weak over time; if the artery becomes completely blocked, a heart attack can result.

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Heart Attack

A heart attack occurs when the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart suddenly becomes blocked. Most heart attacks are the result of advanced coronary artery disease, but they can also be caused by coronary artery spasms. A heart attack can leave the heart muscle in a weakened state, which over time can lead to heart failure.

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High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of the arteries. This pressure is measured with two numbers: diastolic (the "top number," measuring pressure as the heart beats) and systolic (the "bottom number," measuring pressure as the heart relaxes).

If your blood pressure stays high (140/90 or above) over time, the heart has to work harder to move blood through the body. To take on this extra work, the heart muscle can become thicker and eventually become either too stiff or too weak to effectively pump blood, leading to heart failure. Learn more about hypertension.

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Heart Valve Disease

Sometimes the valves—the flaps between the heart's chambers that keep the blood flowing in the right direction—become damaged by infection, a heart defect or coronary artery disease. A damaged valve can cause the heart to work harder than it should to keep the blood flowing as it should. This extra work can cause the heart to weaken over time and lead to heart failure. (For more information about heart valve disease, visit the Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center Valve Clinic website.)

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Heart Muscle Damage (Cardiomyopathy)

The heart muscle can become damaged, and therefore weakened, by several factors, including:

  • Infection
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Drugs such as cocaine
  • Some forms of chemotherapy
  • Lupus
  • Thyroid problems
  • Infiltrative conditions such as amyloidosis, cardiac sarcoidosis and hemochromatosis

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Heart Inflammation (Myocarditis)

Certain viruses can cause inflammation of the heart muscle, also called myocarditis, which can lead to failure on the left side of the heart.

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Congenital Heart Defects

If your heart's chambers or valves were not formed correctly, your heart may have to work harder to pump blood, which can cause it to weaken over time.

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Abnormal Heart Rhythms (Heart Arrhythmias)

An irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) can cause your heart to beat too fast, and the extra work can cause it to weaken over time. Arrhythmia can also mean a slow heartbeat, which can prevent the heart from delivering an adequate blood supply to the body.

Learn more about heart failure:

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For more information about heart failure treatment at the Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center or to make an appointment, please call us at 713-DEBAKEY (713-332-2539) or complete our online contact us form.