Heart Failure: Am I at Risk, and Can I Prevent It?

Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on June 08, 2021

Heart failure is common in the United States. Nearly 6 million Americans live with it. But there are simple steps you can take to lower your odds of getting the condition.

What Is Heart Failure?

You get heart failure when your heart can't pump enough blood and oxygen to your muscles and organs. Doctors haven't found a cure, but many people with heart failure live active lives.

Heart failure usually doesn't sneak up on people, but develops over time and for a number of reasons. It's important to know if you're more likely to get it so you can take the steps to help prevent it.

How Could I Get It?

Certain problems can make your heart work harder than it should and weaken the muscle. Some of these are:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Past heart attack
  • Being too overweight

Things like drinking too much alcohol, smoking, and using illegal drugs are all known to damage your heart.

Some things that raise your chances of heart failure are out of your control, including:


  • Race (African-Americans are more likely to have heart failure)
  • Heart defects you're born with
  • Age (your odds go up if you're 65 or older)

Can I Prevent Heart Failure?

You can lower your odds of getting heart failure. And the earlier you start, the better your chances. You can begin with a few of these simple steps:

  • Stick to a healthy weight.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Eat fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
  • Limit bad fats, added sugars, salt, and alcohol.
  • Don't smoke or use recreational drugs.
  • Reduce your stress.
  • Get enough sleep.

If you think you could be likely to have heart failure, talk to your doctor. They may start you on medications to help manage the condition. Just remember, it's never too late to make lifestyle changes that can protect your heart.  

WebMD Medical Reference



National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: "Who Is at Risk for Heart Failure?"

Mayo Clinic: "Heart Failure."

American Heart Association: "About Heart Failure."

CDC: "Heart Disease and Stroke."

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