Browse Health Information
Search Health Topics
Our Health Library information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Please be advised that this information is made available to assist our patients to learn more about their health. Our providers may not see and/or treat all topics found herein.
Heart Failure With Preserved Ejection Fraction (Diastolic Heart Failure)
Heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF) 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.
It is also called diastolic heart failure.
What does preserved ejection fraction mean?
The types of heart failure are based on a measurement called the ejection fraction. The ejection fraction measures how much blood inside the ventricle is pumped out with each contraction. The left ventricle squeezes and pumps some (but not all) of the blood in the ventricle out to your body. A normal ejection fraction is more than 55%. This means that 55% of the total blood in the left ventricle is pumped out with each heartbeat.
Heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF) happens when the left ventricle is not filling with blood as well as normal. The ventricle can pump well. But it may be stiff so it cannot relax and fill with blood as well as normal. The ejection fraction is 50% or more. HFpEF may also be diagnosed if the ejection fraction is 40% to 49%.footnote 1
Although the ejection fraction may be normal, the heart has less blood inside it to pump out. So the heart pumps out less blood than the body needs.
Examples of ejection fractions of a healthy heart and a heart with preserved ejection fraction:
- A healthy heart with a total blood volume of 100 mL that pumps 60 mL has an ejection fraction of 60%.
- A heart with a stiff left ventricle that has a total blood volume of 90 mL and pumps 50 mL has an ejection fraction of 55%.
HFpEF 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.
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.
What is it?
How it causes heart failure
Coronary artery disease (CAD)
Blockage of the arteries that supply blood to the heart
Low 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.
Narrowed opening of the aortic valve
The left ventricle thickens, limiting its ability to fill.
Inherited abnormality of heart muscle resulting in very thick walls of the left ventricle
Thick heart muscle prevents blood from filling the left ventricle.
Abnormality 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.
Current as of: January 10, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Rakesh K. Pai MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Stephen Fort MD, MRCP, FRCPC - Interventional Cardiology
Current as of: January 10, 2022
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2022 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.