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Jul 06, 2011

Noncardiac Dysfunction Increases Risk for Heart Failure

Abnormalities in organs like lungs and kidneys boots risk for heart failure by 30%.

Heart failure is a serious condition in which the heart cannot pump enough blood to the body. This is often the result of other cardiovascular conditions that weaken the heart over time, such as high blood pressure and heart disease. The most common symptoms for heart failure are fatigue, shortness of breath and swelling of the legs, ankles and feet. Although heart failure can be treated, the condition can progress over time, worsening symptoms and overall health. 

Extensive research has been conducted to understand heart failure and how best to prevent its development. We now know that many cardiovascular conditions can lead to heart failure, especially when in combination. For example, if a patient has a risk factor for heart disease, such as high blood pressure, their risk for heart failure increases. However, if they have high blood pressure and diabetes, they are even more likely to have heart failure than if they had only one risk factor. All of these conditions strain and weaken the heart, wearing it down over time until it cannot pump blood properly.

But what about conditions that don’t necessarily affect the heart? Can they also increase risk for heart failure? A recent study published in the journal Circulation reported subclinical cardiac dysfunction and noncardiac dysfunction greatly increase risk for heart failure. This means that slight abnormalities in the heart or other organs, such as the lungs, kidneys and liver, increase risk for the development of heart failure and can accelerate its progression. This study included over 1,000 patients around the age of 76 for about 11 years. Researchers found that subclinical cardiac dysfunction increased risk for heart failure up to 2 times, and noncardiac organ dysfunction can increase risk for heart failure by 30%.

Based on these findings, it is important that patients and providers work together to control any cardiac and noncardiac conditions to help prevent or slow the development of heart failure. Although heart failure occurs in the heart, it is a progressive condition that can be caused or worsened by conditions in all parts of the body.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What are risk factors for heart failure?

  • Major risk factors for heart failure include high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack, irregular heartbeats, diabetes, congenital heart defects, kidney conditions and excessive alcohol use.
  • How can I help prevent heart failure?

  • By controlling any risk factors you may have for heart failure, you can help to reduce your risk. You should also avoid tobacco use and maintain a healthy lifestyle, with a well balanced diet, healthy weight and regular physical activity.


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