What is Cardiomyopathy?

Cardiomyopathy is a condition where the heart muscle becomes abnormal. There are many types of this disorder. However, the main types of this disorder are dilated cardiomyopathy, hypertrophic myopathy, and restrictive myopathy.

All of the sub-types of this disorder make pumping and delivering blood supply to the rest of the body more difficult. Over time, cardiomyopathy can lead to heart failure. This is why it is important to receive early treatment for this disorder.

Cardiomyopathy can be treated successfully. The type of treatment your doctor recommends will depend on the type of cardiomyopathy that you have.

What are the Symptoms of Cardiomyopathy?

In its early stages, cardiomyopathy does not produce signs or symptoms. However, as the disorder advances through the stages, the symptoms begin to appear.

Symptoms include

  • Becoming short of breath with minimal exertion.
  • Swelling in the lower extremities.
  • Bloating in the abdomen. This is caused by fluid buildup.
  • Coughing when you lay down, caused by fluid buildup.
  • Becoming fatigued easily.
  • Development of irregular heartbeat. This can consist of pounding, fluttering, or pounding of the heart.
  • Pain in the chest.
  • Becoming dizzy, lightheaded, or even fainting for no reason.

Over time, these symptoms can get worse until it is treated. If untreated, this disorder can lead to death or sudden heart failure.

Cardiomyopathy Causes

Cardiomyopathy can be caused by another disease or condition, known as “acquired” cardiomyopathy, or by genes passed down from a parent, known as “inherited” cardiomyopathy. In many instances, the root cause of cardiomyopathy remains unknown, but since different types of cardiomyopathy often have different potential causes, it may be possible to narrow down potential triggers or risk factors.

With dilated cardiomyopathy, the disease may be inherited or caused by:

  • Coronary heart disease
  • Heart attack
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid disease
  • Viral hepatitis
  • HIV
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Street drugs, particularly cocaine and amphetamines
  • Medications to treat cancer

With hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the disease is usually inherited, but factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes and thyroid disease may also contribute.

With restrictive cardiomyopathy, certain diseases and treatments are usually to blame, such as:

  • Hemochromatosis (excess iron in the body)
  • Sarcoidosis (inflammation of the organs)
  • Amyloidosis (buildup of abnormal proteins in the organs)
  • Connective tissue disorders
  • Radiation therapy and chemotherapy for the treatment of cancer

Finally, cases of arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy appear to always be inherited.

How is Cardiomyopathy Treated?

The overall goal of treatment is to manage the symptoms of the disorder through medication. The purpose of the medication is to reduce or eliminate the risk of developing complications associated with the disorder. The treatment will depend on the type of cardiomyopathy that is present.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Dilated cardiomyopathy is usually treated in the following ways:

  • Medication
  • Surgically implanted devices

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is usually treated in the following ways:

  • Medications to stabilize heart rhythm.
  • Implanted Cardio-defibrillator
  • Septal myectomy – Where a surgeon removes part of the damaged or thickened heart muscle between the two chambers of the heart.
  • Septal ablation – Where a surgeon destroys part of the abnormal muscle by injecting concentrated alcohol into the artery that supplies blood to the affected area.

Restrictive Cardiomyopathy

Restrictive cardiomyopathy treatment involves first controlling the diet. By limiting the amount of salt that is taken in daily. Many patients see relieve. Once the cause of the restriction is located, your doctor will prescribe medication that is meant to treat the exact location of the restriction.

Many of the medications used to treat this type of cardiomyopathy have serious side effects so it is important to talk to your doctor and ensure that you understand the risks.

Cardiomyopathy Prevention

In instances of cardiomyopathy which are inherited, it is not possible to prevent the disease. However, to prevent the condition becoming more complicated, it’s important to maintain a healthy heart to reduce the risk of other heart-related conditions, such as coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, and heart attack. Individuals who have been diagnosed with any of these conditions should also strive for good heart health as this will help to reduce the risk of acquiring cardiomyopathy in the future.

Smoking is a major risk factor associated with heart disease, so those who smoke should try to quit as soon as possible. Similarly, street drugs and excessive alcohol consumption should be avoided. Getting regular exercise is also important; aim to get 30 minutes of moderate activity, three times each week.

Finally, a healthy, balanced diet is vital for heart health. Salt, processed sugars, and saturated or trans fats should be limited. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean proteins and moderate amounts of unsaturated fats should be consumed regularly.