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Heart Disease Health Center

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Heart Disease and Congestive Heart Failure

How Is Heart Failure Diagnosed? continued...

You will also get a complete physical exam. Your doctor will listen to your heart and look for signs of heart failure as well as other illnesses that may have caused your heart muscle to weaken or stiffen.

Your doctor may also order other tests to determine the cause and severity of your heart failure. These include:

  • Blood tests. Blood tests are used to evaluate kidney and thyroid function as well as to check cholesterol levels and the presence of anemia. Anemia is a blood condition that occurs when there is not enough hemoglobin (the substance in red blood cells that enables the blood to transport oxygen through the body) in a person's blood.
  • B-type Natriuretic Peptide (BNP) blood test. BNP is a substance secreted from the heart in response to changes in blood pressure that occur when heart failure develops or worsens. BNP blood levels increase when heart failure symptoms worsen, and decrease when the heart failure condition is stable. The BNP level in a person with heart failure -- even someone whose condition is stable -- is higher than in a person with normal heart function. BNP levels do not necessarily correlate with the severity of heart failure.
  • Chest X-ray. A chest X-ray shows the size of your heart and whether there is fluid build-up around the heart and lungs.
  • Echocardiogram. This test is an ultrasound which shows the heart's movement, structure, and function.
  • The Ejection Fraction (EF) is used to measure how well your heart pumps with each beat to determine if systolic dysfunction or heart failure with preserved left ventricular function is present. Your doctor can discuss which condition is present in your heart.
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) . An EKG records the electrical impulses traveling through the heart.
  • Cardiac catheterization. This invasive procedure helps determine whether coronary artery disease is a cause of congestive heart failure.
  • Stress Test. Noninvasive stress tests provide information about the likelihood of coronary artery disease.

Other tests may be ordered, depending on your condition.

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