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Cardiomyopathy: All You Need to Know

Types of Cardiomyopathy|Causes|Signs and Symptoms|Treatment and Prevention
Cardiomyopathy: All You Need to Know

 

Types of Cardiomyopathy

Cardiomyopathy is a disease that makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood throughout the body. This can either be due to the heart muscle getting thicker, such as in the case of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or a buildup of scar tissue that interferes with the heart’s regular function. Preventing this condition means knowing the cardiomyopathy causes and risk factors.

As the condition gets worse, the heart can get weaker, which means it pumps less and less blood into the body and has a difficult time maintaining its normal rhythm. This can eventually lead to heart failure.

Warning Signs and Symptoms of Heart Failure

The Types of Cardiomyopathy

Before we discuss cardiomyopathy causes and risk factors, it’s important to understand the different types of this condition

Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Dilated cardiomyopathy or DCM affects the ventricles and the upper and lower chambers of the heart. It is the most common type of cardiomyopathy. DCM occurs when the heart muscle starts to dilate, or stretch, making it unable to pump blood normally.

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a type of cardiomyopathy that is hereditary. It occurs when the heart muscles start to become thicker than normal, and as a result, the heart becomes stiff, which limits the amount of blood it can pump throughout the body.

Restrictive Cardiomyopathy

This type of cardiomyopathy usually occurs in older people, and happens when scar tissue replaces the muscles of the heart. This makes it stiff and unable to function normally.

Arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia or ARVD

This is a rarer type of cardiomyopathy that’s similar to restrictive cardiomyopathy in that it is caused by a buildup of scar tissue. However, ARVD affects the heart’s electrical signals, causing arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat.

Transthyretin amyloid cardiomyopathy (ATTR-CM)

ATTR-CM is a type of cardiomyopathy that is caused by a protein called transthyretin. This protein causes the left ventricle to become thick and stiff, making it unable to pump blood normally.

Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy

Also known as Broken Heart syndrome, this is an acute type of stress-induced cardiomyopathy that mostly affects the left ventricle of the heart.

Understanding Stress Cardiomyopathy (‘Broken Heart’ Syndrome)

Causes

Cardiomyopathy can be caused by a number of things, and it can vary depending on which type of cardiomyopathy a person has.

Here are some of the possible causes:

  • Damaged heart tissue, usually from a heart attack
  • Problems with the valves of the heart
  • Sarcoidosis or nodules in the heart
  • In the case of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, it can be inherited from your parents

In some cases, the exact cause of cardiomyopathy cannot be identified, since the condition can be caused by a number of factors, and cannot be traced to a single cause. It’s best to consult a doctor to identify which tests will confirm the disease.

What are the risk factors?

The risk of cardiomyopathy can be caused by a number of things. Here are some of the possible risk factors:

  • History of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or heart problems in the family
  • Being diagnosed with a condition that can damage the heart, such as ischemic heart disease, heart attack, or any inflammation of the heart
  • Diabetes can also increase a person’s risk of having cardiomyopathy
  • Severe obesity can put a lot of strain on the heart, and this can eventually cause cardiomyopathy
  • Use of illicit drugs and anabolic steroids
  • Thyroid disease
  • Preeclampsia, or high blood pressure during pregnancy
  • Hypertension or high blood pressure
  • Heavy and long-term alcohol use can also increase a person’s risk of cardiomyopathy

You may not be able to prevent some factors, but you can avoid some modifiable risk factors like the use of illicit drugs and heavy alcohol consumption. As for diseases, it’s best to keep them under control with the help of your doctor.

Signs and Symptoms

Cardiomyopathy in its early stages might not show any symptoms at all. However, as the disease progressively gets worse, someone with cardiomyopathy might experience the following:

  • Feeling out of breath, or tired even when at rest
  • Fatigue
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Feeling of pressure in the chest
  • Your heartbeat feels like it’s fluttering or beating too fast
  • Swelling in the legs, ankles, and feet

To prevent these symptoms, it’s important to know the cardiomyopathy causes and risk factors to watch out for.

Treatment and Prevention

Treatment for cardiomyopathy varies depending on the cause and the severity of symptoms. For those who do not experience any symptoms, treatment might not even be required.

However, for those with more pronounced symptoms, here are some common treatments under the supervision of the doctor:

  • Lifestyle changes, such as being more active and eating healthier foods might be recommended
  • For people with an irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia, medicine to keep the heart’s rhythm normal can be prescribed.
  • Medicine to thin blood or lower blood pressure can also be prescribed.
  • Corticosteroids might also be used to lower the inflammation of the heart.
  • For more severe cases, surgery might be required if the cardiomyopathy cannot be managed through other means.

Here are a number of ways to prevent being diagnosed with cardiomyopathy:

  • Have a healthy diet that is rich in vitamins and minerals. Try to eat more vegetables, fruits, and fish, and less meat and fatty or processed foods.
  • Engage in at least 30 minutes of exercise each day in order to stay active and keep your heart healthy.
  • If you are a habitual drinker, it would be best to lower your consumption, or stop drinking completely in order to lower your risk of cardiomyopathy.
  • For those who are smokers, quitting as soon as possible would greatly lower your risk of not just cardiomyopathy, but also heart disease, hypertension, lung cancer, and a host of other diseases.
  • If you are obese or overweight, it would be best to lose weight. Being overweight or obese can put extra strain on your heart, which means it needs to pump harder, and this can potentially make the heart weaker over time.
  • For people whose parents have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, it would be best to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and to get regular checkups to keep tabs on the health of your heart.

Learn more about heart health, here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Picture of the authorbadge
Written by Jan Alwyn Batara Updated Jun 10
Medically reviewed by John Paul Ferolino Abrina, M.D.
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