Basic Facts

  • Diastolic heart failure means the lower left chamber of the heart is not able to fill properly with blood during the diastolic phase, reducing the amount of blood pumped out to the body. 
  • Diastolic heart failure occurs if the left ventricle muscle becomes stiff or thickened.


Diastolic heart failure signs and symptoms can range from mild to severe, and may include:

  • Awakening at night with shortness of breath
  • Breathlessness or shortness of breath during exercise or when lying flat
  • Coughing or wheezing, sometimes with white or pink phlegm
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Fluid retention causing swelling in the ankles, legs, feet and/or abdomen
  • Lack of appetite and nausea
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Sudden weight gain


The following can lead to diastolic heart failure development:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity

Risk factors that could contribute to diastolic heart failure include:

Aging: As a person gets older, the heart muscle tends to stiffen, preventing the heart from filling with blood properly.

Aortic stenosis: A narrowed opening of the aortic valve can cause the left ventricle to thicken/

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy: This inherited heart muscle abnormality causes left ventricle walls to thicken.

Pericardial disease: This abnormality in the sac surrounding the heart can cause fluid to build up in the pericardial space or thicken the pericardium.




To determine if a patient has diastolic heart failure, we ask questions about your medical history and do a physical exam. We then use advanced diagnostic procedures and technology to effectively diagnose, inform treatment and carefully monitor the condition. Common diagnostic procedures can include:

Blood test: Blood tests check the levels of certain fats, cholesterol, sugar and protein in the blood that could indicate heart conditions.

Chest X-ray: A common imaging test of the lungs, heart and aorta.

Echocardiogram: This ultrasound exam uses soundwaves to take moving pictures of the heart’s chambers and valves. 

Electrocardiogram (EKG): This test measures the electrical activity of the heart and can help determine if parts of the heart are enlarged, overworked or damaged. The heart’s electrical currents are detected by 12 to 15 electrodes that are attached to the arms, legs and chest via sticky tape.

Stress testing:  There are many different kinds but the main goal of these tests is to detect blockages in the heart arteries.


Treatment for diastolic heart failure may include: 

Medications may be prescribed to treat or reduce symptoms of diastolic heart failure. They include:

  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors (ACE Inhibitors) and Angiotensin Receptor Blockers (ARBs), which relax blood vessels to improve blood flow. 
  • Beta-blockers, which can reduce blood pressure and slow a rapid heart rhythm.
  • Calcium-channel blockers and long-acting nitrates to relax blood vessels, especially those that feed the heart muscle.
  • Diuretics to reduce your body’s fluid content by promoting urination.
  • Vasodilators to open blood vessels if you cannot tolerate ACE inhibitors or ARBs.