Causes & risk factors


How do you get heart failure?

Understanding and pinpointing the exact causes of heart failure (HF) isn’t always straightforward. Sometimes, there can be several contributing factors that combine and lead to the condition1.

A recent study showed that the general public are largely unaware of the main causes of HF, with two out of three people not recognising diabetes, high blood pressure and coronary heart disease as the leading risk factors.2

Know the risks

There are number of different risk factors or medical conditions that can increase the risk of heart failure1,3,4,5

  • Being over the age of 60
  • Previous heart attack
  • Coronary artery disease (the narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries)
  • Congenital heart defects (a problem with the structure of the heart present at birth)
  • Valvular heart disease (damage to or a defect in one of the four heart valves)
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Atrial fibrillation or irregular heart rhythm
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or severe lung disease
  • Chronic kidney disease (CKD)
  • Sleep apnoea
  • Regularly drinking alcohol to excess
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Physical inactivity

But these are just a few possible causes and in some cases, the cause is never identified.


If any of these risk factors apply to your loved one, and you feel they may be at a higher risk of heart failure, access our simple tool to support them in understanding the risks of heart failure and talking to their doctor.

Understand their risk level


  1. Mayo Clinic. Heart Failure. Available online at: Last accessed August 25 2020
  2. AstraZeneca PLP. Data on File. ID: REF – 74964. March 2020
  3. American Heart Association. Causes of heart failure. Available from: Accessed 18 September 2020.
  4. Savarese G, Lund LH. Global Public Health Burden of Heart Failure. Card Fail Rev. 2017 Apr;3(1):7-11.
  5. He J, Shlipak M, Anderson A, et al. Risk Factors for Heart Failure in Patients With Chronic Kidney Disease: The CRIC (Chronic Renal Insufficiency Cohort) Study. J Am Heart Assoc. 2017;17;6(5):e005336