Certain conditions, medications, and behaviors can increase a person’s risk of heart failure. These are collectively known as risk factors.
Heart failure happens when the heart muscle does not pump blood around the body as well as it should. It is a serious condition that affects about
The body relies on the heart to deliver oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood to the cells. When the heart does not supply the cells with enough blood, people
Heart failure results from damage to the heart that develops over time. Although doctors cannot cure heart failure, they can help a person maintain their quality of life through a treatment plan
This article discusses heart failure risk factors and potential prevention strategies.
Many factors can increase a person’s risk of developing heart failure.
Aging can weaken and stiffen the heart. People age 65 years or older have a
Certain populations are also at higher risk of heart failure than others. For example, according to the
Additionally, certain conditions and diseases may increase the risk of heart failure, including:
- coronary artery disease (CAD)
- heart attack
- heart valve disease
- congenital heart disease
- irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias)
- heart inflammation
- high blood pressure
- sleep apnea
- chronic kidney disease
- overactive or underactive thyroid
- certain viral infections, such as HIV or SARS-CoV-2
- a buildup of iron or protein
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and aspirin
- calcium channel blockers
- anticancer medications, such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy
- high blood pressure medications
- vasodilators, such as minoxidil
- diabetes medications, such as metformin and thiazolidinediones
- anti-infection medications, such as antifungal and antimalarial drugs
- some anesthetics, such as ketamine
- eye medications, such as topical beta-blockers
- psychiatric medications, such as antidepressants, sedatives, and neurological medications
- certain decongestants
People should never stop taking prescribed medications without first speaking with a healthcare professional.
Certain behaviors or lifestyle habits
- eating foods high in fat, sodium, and cholesterol
- smoking tobacco
- drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
- taking illegal drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamine
- not getting enough physical activity
The below sections discuss some of these risk factors in more detail.
CAD, also known as ischemic heart disease, is the
Plaque consists of cholesterol and other substances. Over time, it causes the arteries to narrow, partially or entirely blocking blood flow. Doctors call this atherosclerosis.
People with CAD
CAD gradually weakens the heart muscle, which
Diabetes is a disease that affects how the body uses blood sugar. The
Over time, high blood sugar
People with type 2 diabetes are around
Learn more about the effects of diabetes on the body and organs.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, occurs when a person’s blood pressure is
High blood pressure
The enlarged heart still pumps blood but becomes less efficient. Eventually, the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs,
The connection between obesity and heart failure is complex. Studies have found that although obesity increases heart failure risk, once a doctor diagnoses the condition, people with heart failure and obesity have better outcomes than people without obesity. Researchers call this phenomenon the obesity paradox.
Experts have suggested various explanations for the obesity paradox, including that fat could be protective against further health complications and death after a person develops heart problems.
However, in a 2023 study revisiting the obesity paradox, researchers found that when using better ways of measuring fat, the top 20% of participants with the most fat were at a 39% higher risk of hospitalization for heart failure than people in the bottom 20% with the least fat.
Various heart conditions can increase a person’s chances of heart failure. These may include:
- Heart attack: A heart attack, also called a myocardial infarction, occurs when there is a sudden partial or complete blockage to the heart’s blood supply. A heart attack
can extensivelydamage the heart muscle and weaken its pumping ability, leading toheart failure.
- Heart valve disease: Valvular heart disease involves problems with
one or moreof the four heart valves, preventing the heart from effectively pumping blood throughout the body. When the heart has to work harder to pump, it can result inheart failure.
- Congenital heart disease: People with congenital heart disease have had structural issues with their heart since birth. Heart failure is the leading cause of complications in adults with congenital heart disease.
- Arrhythmias: An arrhythmia is a problem with the rate or rhythm of a person’s heartbeat. It can involve a heart rate that is too fast, too slow, or irregular. Without treatment, arrhythmias can damage the heart,
leading toheart failure.
- Heart inflammation: Inflammation is the heart’s natural reaction to injury or infection. Heart inflammation can affect the lining of the heart or valves, the tissue surrounding the heart, and the heart muscle,
resulting insevere heart problems, such as heart failure.
- Cardiomyopathy: Depending on the type of cardiomyopathy, the heart muscle
may becomelarger, thicker, or stiffer than usual, making it harder for the heart to pump blood. People may experiencesymptoms of heart failure in the later stages of cardiomyopathy when the heart weakens.
Some behaviors may increase the risk of heart failure. These include the following:
A diet high in sodium can increase blood pressure. It can also increase the amount of fluid the body holds onto, which can lead to heart failure through high blood pressure. It can also exacerbate existing heart failure.
A 2022 study found that cigarette smoking doubles a person’s risk of developing heart failure. Researchers also found that the elevated heart failure risk persisted for decades after people quit smoking.
Researchers recognize that long-term excessive alcohol consumption
For example, people who use cocaine are more likely to have higher blood pressure, thicker heart muscle walls, and stiffer arteries than those who do not use the drug.
Additionally, cannabis misuse may cause heart problems by affecting heart rate, blood pressure, and medication interactions.
People may be able to
- quitting smoking
- eating a healthy diet emphasizing fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy protein sources
- minimizing processed foods.
- preparing foods with little or no salt
- limiting alcohol intake
- avoiding misusing substances
- participating in a regular physical activity program
- working with healthcare professionals to manage conditions that increase the risk of heart failure, such as diabetes
Many factors increase a person’s risk of developing heart failure.
The most common risk factors for heart failure include CAD, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
People may be able to reduce their risk of heart failure by making dietary and lifestyle changes.