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 who have 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, tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and other signaling molecules in the bloodstream called cytokines can increase the metabolic rate of the tissues, thus burning more calories.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Stephen Fort, MD, MRCP, FRCPC - Interventional Cardiology
Last Revised April 26, 2012

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