BACKGROUND: Chronic heart failure (CHF) is increasing in prevalence. Patients with CHF usually have co-morbid conditions, but these have been subjected to little research and consequently there is a paucity of guidance on how to manage them. Obesity and diabetes mellitus are common antecedents of CHF and often complicate management and influence outcome. Cachexia is an ominous and often missed sign in patients with CHF. METHODS: This manuscript describes the rationale and the design of Studies Investigating Co-morbidities Aggravating Heart Failure (SICA-HF), a prospective, multicentre, multinational, longitudinal, pathophysiological evaluation study, which is being conducted in 11 centres across six countries in the European Union and in Russia. We aim to recruit >1,600 patients with CHF due to various common aetiologies, irrespective of left ventricular ejection fraction, and with or without co-morbidities at study entry. In addition, >300 patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus without CHF and >150 healthy subjects will serve as control groups. Participants will be systematically investigated at annual intervals for up to 48 months. Additional investigations focusing on cellular and subcellular mechanisms, adipose and skeletal muscle tissue, and in endothelial progenitor cells will be performed in selected subgroups. CONCLUSIONS: SICA-HF will provide insights into common co-morbidities in CHF with a specific emphasis on diabetes mellitus and body mass. This will provide a more thorough pathophysiological understanding of the complexity of CHF that will help develop therapies tailored to manage specific co-morbidities.