What Causes Acute Heart Failure?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 08 February 2020
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Acute heart failure is the sudden failure of the heart to pump adequate amounts of blood. There are several things that commonly cause acute heart failure. They include coronary artery disease, a heart attack, enlargement of the heart, and high blood pressure. Heart defects, physical damage to the heart valves, and irregularities in the beating of the heart may cause it as well.

Coronary heart disease, which is marked by narrowed coronary arteries, is one of the most common causes of acute heart failure. The narrowing is usually caused by plaque that accumulates in the arteries. Eventually, the narrowing of these arteries impairs blood flow or even causes it to stop.

In a severe case of coronary artery disease, the narrowing progresses enough to result in the reduction of blood flow, which may lead to a heart attack. This happens when plaque in one of the coronary arteries ruptures and causes a blood clot to block blood flow through the artery. This cuts off the blood supply, which damages or even destroys parts of the heart muscle. Unfortunately, a heart attack can lead to the death of the patient.


Sometimes acute heart failure occurs because of damage to the heart, which is referred to as cardiomyopathy. Some of the things that are capable of causing heart muscle damage are infections and diseases that affect a person’s entire body, such as lupus. Sometimes problems with a person’s thyroid gland can cause this type of damage as well. Additionally, drug and alcohol abuse and some chemotherapy drugs may also cause heart damage that leads to acute heart failure.

Many people know that high blood pressure can lead to a stroke but are unaware that it may cause acute heart failure as well. When a person has high blood pressure, his heart has a tougher job of pumping blood through his body. Over time, the heart may deal with the extra work by thickening and enlarging. Over an extended period, the extra exertion causes stiffness and weakness of the heart, which renders it incapable of pumping blood effectively.

An individual may also develop acute heart failure because of a damaged heart valve that causes the heart to work harder than usual. In time, this may weaken the heart so much that it cannot pump blood properly. Sometimes this occurs because of a birth defect. Additionally, arrhythmias, which are abnormal heart rhythms, may cause acute heart failure.



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