Scared of Being Diagnosed with Heart Failure? This Pre-Diagnosis Guide Will Help You Calm

Heart failure is a highly dreaded medical condition as it can happen without any warning signs and is mostly caused by some underlying medical problem. Find out how doctors diagnose the medical problem.

Bhadra Kamalasanan
Heart HealthWritten by: Bhadra KamalasananPublished at: Feb 14, 2018
Scared of Being Diagnosed with Heart Failure? This Pre-Diagnosis Guide Will Help You Calm

Early diagnosis and treatment can help people who have heart failure live longer, more active lives.

According to National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, United States, your doctor will diagnose heart failure based on your medical and family history, a physical exam, and test results. The signs and symptoms of heart failure also are common in other conditions. Thus, your doctor will:

  • Find out whether you have a disease or condition that can cause heart failures, such as coronary heart disease (CHD), high blood pressure, or diabetes
  • Rule out other causes of your symptoms
  • Find any damage to your heart and check how well your heart pumps blood

Medical and Family History

Your doctor will ask whether you or others in your family have or have had a disease or condition that can cause heart failure.

Physical Exam

During the physical exam, your doctor will:

  • Listen to your heart for sounds that aren't normal
  • Listen to your lungs for the sounds of extra fluid buildup
  • Look for swelling in your ankles, feet, legs, abdomen, and the veins in your neck.

EKG (Electrocardiogram)

An EKG is a simple, painless test that detects and records the heart's electrical activity. The test shows how fast your heart is beating and its rhythm (steady or irregular). An EKG also records the strength and timing of electrical signals as they pass through your heart.

An EKG may show whether the walls in your heart's pumping chambers are thicker than normal. Thicker walls can make it harder for your heart to pump blood. An EKG also can show signs of a previous or current heart attack.

Chest X-Ray

A chest x-ray takes pictures of the structures inside your chest, such as your heart, lungs, and blood vessels. This test can show whether your heart is enlarged, you have fluid in your lungs, or you have lung disease.


Echocardiography (echo) uses sound waves to create a moving picture of your heart. The test shows the size and shape of your heart and how well your heart chambers and valves work.

Echo also can identify areas of poor blood flow to the heart, areas of heart muscle that aren't contracting normally, and heart muscle damage caused by lack of blood flow.

Echo might be done before and after a stress test (see below). A stress echo can show how well blood is flowing through your heart. The test also can show how well your heart pumps blood when it beats.

Coronary Angiography

Coronary angiography (an-jee-OG-rah-fee) usually is done with cardiac catheterization. A dye that can be seen on x-ray is injected into your bloodstream through the tip of the catheter. The dye allows your doctor to see the flow of blood to your heart muscle. Angiography also shows how well your heart is pumping.

Cardiac MRI

Cardiac MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) uses radio waves, magnets, and a computer to create pictures of your heart as it's beating. The test produces both still and moving pictures of your heart and major blood vessels.
A cardiac MRI can show whether parts of your heart are damaged. Doctors also have used MRI in research studies to find early signs of heart failure, even before symptoms appear.

Prognosis of Heart Failure

The prognosis of heart failure, once it has been diagnosed, depends on the patient's age, the severity of the underlying medical condition/heart disease, the severity of heart failure among other factors. It has been seen that in people who had a treatable cause of heart failure could easily regain the normal functioning of heart post-treatment. When given appropriate treatment, even those people who develop a heart failure because of a long-standing medical problem like some form of heart diseases tend to enjoy several years of productive life.

Because heart failure does not have any warning signs, it is important for a person to reduce his/her chances of surviving one by way of preventive measures in the form of lifestyle changes.

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