Skip to content

Heart Failure Health Center

Font Size

Diastolic Heart Failure - Topic Overview

Diastolic heart failure occurs when the lower left chamber (left ventricle) is not able to fill properly with blood during the diastolic (filling) phase. The amount of blood pumped out to the body is less than normal.

What happens to the heart?

Diastole is the phase of your heartbeat when your heart relaxes and fills with blood. Diastolic dysfunction means that your left ventricle cannot relax properly during diastole. As a result, your ventricle doesn't fill with enough blood before it pumps. If diastolic dysfunction is severe enough, it can lead to heart failure.

Diastolic heart failure happens because the left ventricle's muscle becomes too stiff or thickened. To compensate for stiff heart muscle, your heart has to increase the pressure inside the ventricle to properly fill the ventricle. Over time, this increased filling causes blood to build up inside the left atrium and eventually into the lungs, which leads to fluid congestion and the symptoms of heart failure.

Diastolic heart failure may not lower the heart's ejection fraction. Ejection fraction is a measurement of how well the heart is pumping out blood. This ejection fraction is typically lower in people who have systolic heart failure. But in diastolic heart failure, your left ventricle may pump well during systole; it is just not filling with enough blood during diastole. Your ventricle may have a normal ejection fraction, but it has less blood inside it to pump out. As a result, your ventricle pumps out less blood with each beat. Doctors sometimes call it heart failure with preserved ejection fraction.

What causes it?

The most common cause of diastolic heart failure is the natural effect of aging on the heart. As you age, your heart muscle tends to stiffen, which can prevent your heart from filling with blood properly, leading to diastolic heart failure.

But there are many health problems that can impair your left ventricle's ability to fill properly with blood during diastole.

Causes of diastolic heart failure

Cause

What is it?

How it causes heart failure

Coronary artery disease (CAD)Blockage of the arteries that supply blood to the heartLow blood flow to the heart muscle (ischemia) can prevent the heart from relaxing and filling with blood.

High blood pressure

Elevated pressure in your arteries

Heart muscle can thicken the wall of the heart (hypertrophy) in an effort to pump against high blood pressure. Thickened heart muscle limits the heart's ability to relax and fill with blood.
Aortic stenosis Narrowed opening of the aortic valveThe left ventricle thickens, limiting its ability to fill.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathyInherited abnormality of heart muscle resulting in very thick walls of the left ventricleThick heart muscle prevents blood from filling the left ventricle.
Pericardial diseaseAbnormality of the sac that surrounds the heart (pericardium)Fluid in the pericardial space (pericardial tamponade) or a thickened pericardium (pericardial constriction) can limit the heart's ability to fill.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 12, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
    1
    Next Article:

    Today on WebMD

    Compressed heart
    Article
    Salt Shockers
    Slideshow
     
    Inside A Heart Attack
    Slideshow
    lowering blood pressure
    SLIDESHOW
     

    Mechanical Heart
    Article
    Omega 3 Overview Slideshow
    Slideshow
     
    Atrial Fibrillation Guide
    Slideshow
    Simple Steps to Lower Cholesterol
    Slideshow
     

    Compressed heart
    Article
    FAQ Heart Failure
    Article
     
    Cholesterol Confusion
    Health Check
    Resolved To Quit Smoking
    Slideshow
     

    WebMD Special Sections