Cardiac Cachexia

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Cardiac Cachexia

Topic Overview

Cardiac cachexia is unintentional severe weight loss caused by heart disease. The weight loss might be life-threatening.

It can happen to people with severe heart failure. Even with a very good appetite and high calorie intake, some people lose muscle mass.

Cardiac cachexia can require supplemental nutrition.

How does heart failure cause it?

  • Heart failure may cause blood to back up into the liver and intestines, and they may swell. This swelling can lead to nausea and decreased appetite.
  • Swelling of the intestines may not allow for adequate absorption of nutrients from the food you eat.
  • Heart failure may force you to work harder to breathe and cause your body temperature to increase. Both of these conditions burn calories.
  • In people with severe heart failure, tumour necrosis factor (TNF) and other signalling molecules in the bloodstream called cytokines can increase the metabolic rate of the tissues, thus burning more calories.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Robert A. Kloner, MD, PhD - Cardiology
Last Revised August 5, 2011

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