What causes heart failure?

Patients and carers tell us that it’s important to know why they have heart failure because it then puts the diagnosis into context. Heart failure can be caused by current or past medical conditions, which either damage or add extra workload to the heart. If you have (or had) more than one of these conditions, your risk of heart failure is substantially increased. Your doctor should be able to tell you what may have caused your heart failure.

This section lists the different conditions that can cause or trigger heart failure, explaining what each condition is and how it can cause heart failure. Simply click on any of the conditions below to learn more.

Some of the more common causes of heart failure include:

In some cases, someone whose body is compensating well for his/her heart failure may develop symptoms if their heart is temporarily unable to keep up with their body’s needs. Conditions that can trigger this type of heart failure include:

If these triggers are treated, heart failure can often get better.

Other conditions, such as diabetes, may aggravate heart failure.

In addition, people with heart failure frequently become symptomatic if they stop taking their medicines or don’t follow their treatment plan properly.

For tips on managing your medicines and following your treatment plan, click here.

For some people the cause of their heart failure is unknown, and they don’t have any of the conditions listed above.

If you are unsure of the cause of your heart failure, you should discuss it with your doctor.

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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