What Is Diastolic Heart Failure?

Medically Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on May 16, 2023
2 min read

If you have diastolic heart failure, your left ventricle has become stiffer than normal. Because of that, your heart can't relax the way it should. When it pumps, it can't fill up with blood as it's supposed to. Because there's less blood in the ventricle, less blood is pumped out to your body.

As we get older, our heart and blood vessels become less elastic. That makes them more likely to get stiff. So diastolic heart failure is more common as people get older. Other than normal aging, the most common causes are:

High blood pressure: If you have it, your heart has to work harder to pump more blood through your body. Thanks to that extra work, your heart muscle may get thicker or larger, and it eventually gets stiff. Learn more about the symptoms of high blood pressure.

Diabetes: The disease can cause the wall of your heart to thicken. That makes it stiffen. Read more on how diabetes affects your heart.

Coronary artery disease: The amount of blood flowing to your heart muscle is blocked or less than normal. Find out more about the different types of cardiovascular diseases.

Obesity/inactivity: With either, your heart has to work much harder to pump blood. Get information on the health risks linked to obesity.

Common signs of heart failure can include:

To figure out if you have heart failure, your doctor will examine you, ask about your medical history, and run some tests. Those tests might include:

  • An echocardiogram to check for diastolic dysfunction
  • Blood tests
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG)
  • Chest X-ray
  • Exercise test (stress test)
  • Heart catheterization

Although diastolic heart failure can't be cured, treatment can help ease symptoms and improve the way your heart pumps.

Your plan can include:

Lifestyle changes: Your doctor will probably suggest:

Medication: You may need to take one or more drugs as part of your treatment. Common heart failure medications for diastolic heart failure include:

  • Diuretics, which help ease swelling
  • Mineralocorticoid receptor antagonists, a type of diuretic to get rid of extra salt and fluid but help the body keep potassium
  • High blood pressure medication
  • SGLT2 inhibitors, usually used to treat diabetes, these drugs can help Increase circulating ketone bodies to help the heart work more efficiently