Heart failure causes and other common medical conditions

Heart failure including congestive heart failure (CHF) can be due to a variety of underlying causes. It is of utmost importance to identify this cause. If the diagnosis of heart failure has been made, diagnostics are not finished but should be continued to determine the origin of the heart failure symptoms. Only then, optimal treatment can be tailored both to the affected person and the underlying cause.

Please note, that the causes of heart failure may lie within the heart or outside the heart. In the second column you find body systems, which may result in heart failure if they become diseased or malfunctioning. In the third column you find important examples, although the list is not complete. More information on each of these causes is provided on subsequent pages.

Within the heart

Affected part of the heart Important examples
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Past heart attacks / myocardial infarction
Valves & heart muscle
  • Valvular heart disease
  • Heart muscle disease, i.e. cardiomyopathy
  • Congenital heart defects
  • Abnormal heart rhythm, e.g. atrial fibrillation

Outside the heart

Affected body system Important examples
  • High blood pressure, i.e. (arterial) hypertension
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Asthma
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Sleep apnea
  • Loss of filtration capacity
Thyroid gland
  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity & anorexia
  • Iron deficiency
  • Anemia
  • Gout
  • Amyloidosis and other rare conditions
  • Alcohol
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation
  • Chronic inflammatory conditions (viruses, bacteria etc.)
  • Septicemia
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

ESC Guidelines for Heart Failure

What patients need to know

This guide for patients from the European Society of Cardiology aims to provide an overview of the latest evidence-based recommendations for the diagnosis and treatment of heart failure.

In particular, it should help patients to understand the:

  • main types of heart failure
  • medicines used to treat heart failure
  • devices that may be appropriate
  • importance of rehabilitation
  • management by a multidisciplinary team
  • importance of self-care in managing your own condition

Learn more


A series of 9 simple, captivating animations explaining heart failure and its treatment.

These narrated animations explain how a healthy heart works, what happens to it in heart failure and how various treatments work to improve your health.


In this section you can watch, listen or read interviews with other people with heart failure and their caregivers.


and share your own views and experiences with other patients, families and caregivers.

heartfailurematters.org is a European Society of Cardiology website

The heartfailurematters.org website was developed under the direction of the Heart Failure Association of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC). The ESC is a world leader in the discovery and dissemination of best practices in cardiovascular medicine. Our members and decision-makers are healthcare professionals who volunteer their time and expertise to represent professionals in the field of cardiology in Europe and beyond.

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