Your Diagnosis

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To help your doctor arrive at the proper diagnosis, be sure to share information about your symptoms, when they began, how often you have them, how long they last and what they feel like.

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Your cardiologist will diagnose heart failure by talking with you about your medical history, performing a physical examination and possibly performing other tests, including:

  • Blood Test - Your doctor may take a sample of your blood to check your kidney and thyroid function. A blood test to check for a chemical called brain natriuretic peptide (BNP) can help check the pressure in your heart and assist in diagnosing heart failure.
  • Electrocardiogram - The ECG gathers a record of your heart's electrical activity, including any abnormal electrical impulses. The test is performed at the doctor's office. During an ECG, electrodes are placed on your wrists, ankles and chest to monitor your heart rhythm, which is recorded on graph paper.
  • Chest X-ray - A chest X-ray is a radiographic image of your heart and lungs.
  • Echocardiogram - Echocardiograms (ECHOs) may be ordered if your doctor suspects a problem with the heart muscle or one of the valves that channel blood through the heart. During an ECHO, gel is put on your chest and a transducer placed on your chest bounces sound waves off the heart. The returning signals are converted into a moving image on a video screen.
  • Stress Test - This test records your heart’s electrical activity while you walk on a treadmill or pedal on an exercise bike. While you exercise, your heart rate is monitored. If you are unable to use the treadmill or stationary bike, your doctor may create the effect of exercise on your heart with a medication.

Animations 

Recommended animations:

  • Types of Heart Failure: Left-Sided Failure: Systolic or Diastolic 
  • Types of Heart Failure: Right-Sided Heart Failure 

View Understanding Heart Failure and Treatment Options Animations

Last Reviewed: April 25, 2011 V-00304