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The World Heart Federation was originally formed in 1978 by a merger of the International Society of Cardiology (ISC) and the International Cardiology Federation (ICF), which became the International Society and Federation of Cardiology (ISFC). In 1998 the ISFC changed its name to the World Heart Federation.

The ISC was founded in 1946 as a professional scientific organization with a membership of national societies of cardiology. The ICF was set up in 1970, composed of heart foundations around the world, with the purpose of supporting international research, professional and public education, as well as community programmes.

In 1996, an agreement between UNESCO, World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Heart Federation instigated ongoing cooperation on different projects such as the prevention of rheumatic fever and heart disease, Chagas' disease and risk factors in school-age children in developing countries. Joint projects are continuously under way. The World Heart Federation is now recognized by the World Health Organization as its leading NGO partner in cardiovascular disease prevention and is a close partner of the World Health Organization's department of Noncommunicable Diseases.

In 1998, the Board agreed to change the name of the ISFC to “World Heart Federation”.