Understanding Cardiomyopathy

The Greek words for heart, muscle and disease combine to form the word cardiomyopathy, the term for damaged or defective heart muscle.

Common symptoms of cardiomyopathy include:

  • breathlessness,
  • water retention or edema,
  • weakness,
  • rapid heartbeat,
  • chest pain
  • and fainting.

There are four common kinds of cardiomyopathy.

In dilated cardiomyopathy, the heart muscle is weak and cannot pump efficiently. The enlarged heart chambers may produce clots, which travel to other parts of the body. It is most common in middle-aged men.

In hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the walls of the left ventricle become thickened and stiff, reducing the flow of blood through the heart. This disorder can run in families.

Alcoholic heart disease is a form of cardiomyopathy caused by drinking large quantities of alcohol over many years. It eventually leads to heart failure. Its progress can be halted by giving up alcohol.

In restrictive cardiomyopathy, the heart is unable to expand and fill with blood between contractions. Heart failure occurs when the heart does not fill with enough blood to pump.

Damage from cardiomyopathy is often permanent, and treatment is aimed at relieving the symptoms and preventing further damage. Severe cardiomyopathy may require heart transplant. Symptoms such as breathlessness, chest pain, weakness and rapid heartbeat should not be ignored. See your healthcare to develop a program of treatment and medication that is right for your condition.

If you have cardiomyopathy, work with your healthcare team provider for a complete cardiographic checkup, which may include an electrocardiogram, x-ray and echocardiogram.

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