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What is Diastolic Heart Failure?

By Jacob Queen
Updated May 17, 2024
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Diastolic heart failure is a disorder in which the heart’s beating cycle becomes dysfunctional because of stiffened ventricles, and the muscle doesn’t relax enough between beats. When this happens, blood is unable to fill the heart properly, and it results in a lower amount of blood being circulated through the body. The lack of blood causes the lungs to fill up with fluid, which is the primary symptom. Three out of 10 people who suffer from heart failure are ultimately diagnosed with the diastolic variety, and women are more vulnerable to it than men.

There are several causes for diastolic heart failure. High blood pressure is thought to be one of the primary causes, along with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Some other causes include coronary artery disease and restrictive cardiomyopathy. Aging itself is also thought to be a cause, but the reason is somewhat mysterious. Scientists believe there is some specific thing that happens as people age that leads to the disorder, but that exact physical change is currently unknown.

When treating diastolic heart failure, doctors will generally take a two-pronged approach. They will normally try lessening symptoms along with attacking the underlying cause of the illness. For example, if the disease is caused by high blood pressure, the patient would be treated with high blood pressure medication, and at the same time, they would take medicine to reduce the congestion in their lungs. For some patients, aerobic exercise can also be very beneficial. There haven't been very many clinical trials in relation to diastolic heart failure treatment methods, so patients have to rely on the experience and judgment of their individual physicians.

For many years, doctors were unable to accurately diagnose this disease, so there is a general lack of data about survival rates. Based on the information available, the ultimate prognosis and survival time of patients with diastolic heart failure seems to vary considerably depending on their age. In comparison to systolic heart failure, the prognosis could be described as good, but in general, there is a fairly high mortality rate, especially after a five-year period.

Some studies have shown that patients who aren’t showing specific symptoms have a much higher mortality rate than those that do, and this is probably because they don’t always receive aggressive treatment. Another problem is that sometimes the actual cause of the disease can be difficult to detect. In cases where the underlying cause isn’t obvious, some doctors don’t always do enough testing, and they may end up using the wrong medications or weak dosages.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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