Triggers of Sudden Heart Failure

Topic Overview

Certain conditions are known to trigger sudden heart failure in people with already-weakened heart muscles. If these conditions subside or are treated effectively, heart function may be restored. Conditions that trigger sudden heart failure include:

  • Failure to properly take medicines for blood pressure, heart failure, or chest pain (angina). This is one of the leading causes of sudden heart failure and one that could be easily controlled.
  • A recent heart attack.
  • Blood clots (emboli) in organs (other than the heart), especially the lungs. Blood clots increase the pressure against which the heart must contract. Blood clots in the lungs also decrease the amount of blood returning from the lungs to the left side of the heart.
  • Inflammation of the pericardium, which is the sac around the heart. This inflammation is called pericarditis.
  • Lung infections (pneumonia).
  • Irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias).
  • Certain medicines used to treat arrhythmias. These medicines may also increase the risk of developing heart failure.
  • Conditions that affect a person's oxygen demands, such as fever, poorly oxygenated blood (anemia), thyroid problems, poorly controlled diabetes, pregnancy, overexertion, or stress.
  • Too much sodium in your diet.
  • Use of alcohol or illegal drugs (such as a stimulant, like cocaine).

Related Information

Credits

Author Robin Parks, MS
Editor Kathleen M. Ariss, MS
Editor Marianne Flagg
Associate Editor Terrina Vail
Associate Editor Pat Truman, MATC
Primary Medical Reviewer Caroline S. Rhoads, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Robert A. Kloner, MD, PhD - Cardiology
Last Updated August 25, 2008

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