Your healthcare team will look at your symptoms, any other medical conditions you might have, and how those conditions are treated. You team will also ask you about your daily life. They will also want to know if any other members of your family have had heart problems. Finally, they will order several tests that will help them figure out what’s causing your symptoms. Some of those tests are:

  • Blood tests, to count your red blood cells (RBC), check your electrolytes (minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium in your blood), and to see if your kidneys, liver, and thyroid are working well.
  • Urine tests, to see if problems with your kidneys or bladder may be adding to your heart failure.
  • Chest x-rays, to check the size of your heart and see if you have fluid buildup in your lungs.
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG), to check the electrical activity of your heart.
  • Stress tests, to see how your heart responds to stress. Exercise or certain medicines may be used to stress your heart.
  • Echocardiogram (echo), or ultrasound, to create images of your heart. An echo can tell your provider how well your heart is pumping, if your heart valves are working well, and how much your heart is enlarged. Echos are often used to measure your ejection fraction (EF). EF is a measure of how much blood is pumped with each heart beat.
  • Angiogram, to see how blood flows through your heart. An angiogram is done in a cardiac catheterization (cath) lab. During the test, a long, thin tube called a catheter is inserted through a blood vessel and guided into the heart. Dye is injected through the catheter, and special x-rays track how blood flows to and through your heart. This test is also used to diagnose coronary artery disease, or atherosclerosis, which is a cause of heart failure.

More Information About Tests for Heart Failure



An angiogram uses a catheter and contrast dye to diagnose problems with your arteries and veins.



An echocardiogram (echo for short) is a cardiac ultrasound that helps assess heart conditions.

electroencephalography EEG


An electrocardiogram is a procedure that records the electrical activity of the heart.