Diastolic Heart Failure
Diastolic heart failure occurs when the heart’s main pumping chamber (left ventricle) thickens, stiffens and does not fully relax between beats. As a result, the left ventricle does not completely fill with blood. Because the heart’s pumping function (ejection fraction) is typically unaffected, it can effectively eject the blood it receives, but its output is reduced.
Diastolic heart failure most frequently affects older adults. Recent studies suggest it may have a slightly higher incidence in women, particularly postmenopausal women, but the reasons are unclear.
Through ongoing research, the scientists in the Women’s Heart Program at Tampa General Hospital’s Heart and Vascular Institute continue to study the biological, medical and social bases for the gender disparities in diastolic heart failure and other cardiac issues. As we learn more, we continue to refine our preventive, diagnostic and treatment services geared specifically toward women.
What Causes Diastolic Heart Failure?
Several factors can contribute to the development of diastolic heart failure, including advanced age, obesity and uncontrolled diabetes. The condition has also been linked to other medical conditions, such as:
- Atrial fibrillation (AFib)
- Coronary artery disease
- Prior heart attacks
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)
- Chronic kidney disease
- Amyloidosis and other infiltrative heart diseases
Diastolic Heart Failure Symptoms
Common signs of diastolic heart failure include:
- Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
- Unexplained fatigue
- Brain fog
- Swelling in the abdomen, legs, ankles and feet (edema))
- Persistent coughing, which may produce pink, frothy sputum
- Irregular heartbeat
- Chest pain or pressure
- Frequent urination
Because these symptoms can have many other causes, it is important to seek prompt medical attention for any unusual changes, such as discomfort that is severe, persistent or worsening.
Diastolic Heart Failure Diagnosis
Because diastolic heart failure shares symptoms with many other cardiac and lung conditions, the diagnostic process can be challenging and often requires specialized expertise. Typically, a combination of several clinical assessments and medical tests are used, such as:
- A physical examination
- Blood testing for cardiac biomarkers, such as B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP)
- A chest X-ray
- An electrocardiogram (EKG)
- An echocardiogram
- Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of the heart
- Exercise stress testing
- Cardiac catheterization
Diastolic Heart Failure Treatment
Although diastolic heart failure cannot be cured, it can often be managed with lifestyle modifications, such as weight loss, regular exercise, reduced sodium intake and the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine for sleep apnea. It is also important to quit smoking and limit alcohol consumption. Additionally, a physician may prescribe antihypertensives to lower blood pressure and/or diuretics to rid the body of excess water and sodium.
Benefit From World-Class Care at TGH
Many patients confidently entrust their heart healthcare to TGH. In 2017, we were the only hospital in Hillsborough County and one of 12 hospitals in Florida to receive full heart failure accreditation from the American College of Cardiology Accreditation Service. This distinction recognizes our expertise as well as the high-quality care we provide to our patients.
If you would like to learn more about diastolic heart failure, contact us at (813) 844-3900 to request an appointment with a member of our team.