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Triggers of Sudden Heart Failure

Topic Overview

Sudden heart failure happens when your heart suddenly cannot not pump as much blood as your body needs. Certain triggers can cause sudden heart failure. These triggers upset the delicate balance in your body, making it harder for your heart to pump effectively.

Triggers you can control

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

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  • Pay attention to your symptoms and know when to call your doctor. Changes in your weight, difficulty 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.

Triggers you cannot control

Unfortunately, many health problems can also 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, 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 heart failure.
  • Conditions that affect a person's oxygen demands, such as fever, poorly oxygenated blood (anemia), thyroid problems, and poorly controlled diabetes.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Stephen Fort, MD, MRCP, FRCPC - Interventional Cardiology
Last Revised September 12, 2012

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