Triggers of Sudden Heart Failure

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Topic Overview

Sudden heart failure happens when your heart suddenly cannot pump as much blood as your body needs. Certain things, called triggers, can cause sudden heart failure. These triggers make it harder for your heart to pump well. But if you know what the triggers are, you can try to prevent them.

Things that can cause sudden heart failure

Many health problems can cause sudden heart failure. These include:

  • 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. This is the sac around the heart. The inflammation is called pericarditis.
  • Lung infections (pneumonia).
  • Irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias).
  • Certain medicines used to treat heart rhythm problems. These medicines may also increase the risk of heart failure.
  • Conditions that affect your need for oxygen. These may include fever, anemia (not enough red blood cells), thyroid problems, and poorly controlled diabetes.

What you can do to prevent sudden heart failure

You can help prevent sudden heart failure by avoiding the triggers that cause it.

Heart Failure: Avoiding Triggers for Sudden Heart Failure
  • Pay attention to your symptoms, and know when to call your doctor. Changes in your weight, trouble breathing, decreased appetite, and swelling (usually first noticed in the feet and legs) may be signs that your heart failure is getting worse.
  • Keep your diet, exercise, and medicine routine as close to the same schedule as possible.
  • Take your medicine properly.
  • Avoid things that you know can trigger heart failure, such as eating too much salt or exercising very hard.

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Related Information


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Specialist Medical Reviewer Stephen Fort, MD, MRCP, FRCPC - Interventional Cardiology

Current as ofFebruary 20, 2015