Cardiomyopathy is a condition that affects the muscle of the heart (myocardium), which can lead to heart failure. My mother passed away about two years ago from this condition; however, she was treated with medication for many years prior to her death.
This condition can cause an enlarged heart and the muscle to harden or thicken over time. Your heart can not effectively pump blood to your body when this occurs. Cardiomyopathy will eventually lead to complete heart failure.
Males or females can have cardiomyopathy, but it is more common in males. It is also more common in blacks than whites. There may be one in every five hundred people with this condition.
Types of Cardiomyopathy
There are several types of cardiomyopathy, including:
- Dilated cardiomyopathy causes enlarged blood-pumping chambers
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy causes the heart muscle to thicken.
- Arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (ARVD) causes irregular heart rhythms.
- Restrictive cardiomyopathy causes your heart muscle to scar and/or stiffen.
- Transthyretin amyloid cardiomyopathy (ATTR-CM) occurs due to an abnormal protein buildup in the left ventricle (primary blood-pumping chamber).
Causes of Cardiomyopathy
There are several possible causes of cardiomyopathy, and they include:
- Coronary artery disease
- Heart attack (myocardial infarction)
- Certain medicines, like chemotherapy
- Viral infections
- Long-term rapid heart rate
- Heart valve disorders
- Covid 19 infection
- Complications of pregnancy
- Metabolic disorders (thyroid disease, obesity or diabetes)
- Lack of essential vitamins or minerals (vitamin B-1, thiamin)
- Iron buildup in the heart muscle (hemochromatosis)
- Abnormal protein buildup in the organs (amyloidosis)
- Growth of tiny lumps of inflammatory cells (granulomas) in any part of the body, like the lungs or the heart
- Connective tissue disorder
There are several other possible risk factors that can increase your risk of cardiomyopathy, including:
- Long-term high blood pressure (hypertension)
- Family history of cardiomyopathy, heart failure and sudden cardiac arrest
- Abuse of alcohol (long term)
- Illicit drug use, such as cocaine, amphetamines and anabolic steroids
Sometimes there are no symptoms in the earlier stages of cardiomyopathy. Eventually, there are several possible signs or symptoms, including:
- Shortness of breath, even at rest
- Swelling of the legs, feet and ankles
- Coughing when lying down
- Abdominal bloating due to fluid buildup
- Difficulty lying flat to sleep
- Chest pressure or discomfort
- Heartbeats feeling like rapid, pounding or fluttering
- Dizziness, lightheadedness and fainting
Several diagnostic tests may be ordered by your physician. They include:
- Blood tests
- Chest X-ray to check the size of your heart and lungs and to look for fluid in or around the lungs.
- Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), which records the heart rhythm.
- (Holter monitor) to record your heart rhythm for a day or two.
- An echocardiogram is the most important test to diagnose cardiomyopathy. It checks for an enlarged left ventricle and evaluates the amount of blood pumped by the heart.
- Exercise stress test requires walking on the treadmill or riding a stationary bike while attached to an ECG.
- MRI or CT scan reveals the size and function of the heart.
- Cardiac catheterization allows the doctor to measure pressure in your heart and get a muscle biopsy to look for muscle damage.
- Genetic screening or counseling as your doctor may suggest screening other family members.
Cardiomyopathy symptoms tend to worsen without treatment. Cardiomyopathy can worsen more quickly in some people. There are numerous medications and treatments. Doctors typically treat this disease with a combination of medications.
Medications are used to improve blood flow, control symptoms and treat underlying conditions, such as:
- Blood thinners are prescribed, such as warfarin (Coumadin), to prevent blood clots.
- Beta-blocker medications such as propranolol (Inderal) are used to lower blood pressure and slow heart rate.
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors may be used to widen blood vessels that improve heart function.
- Diuretics (water pills) are often prescribed to remove excess fluid and salt from the body and will decrease fluid in the lungs.
Sometimes devices that correct arrhythmias are necessary, like pacemakers or implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs). The ICDs send an electrical impulse to control heart arrhythmias. The left ventricular assist device (LVAD) is a mechanical device that is used for patients awaiting a heart transplant.
If all the above treatments fail, surgery may be the only option.
Cardiomyopathy often has no symptoms initially. Symptoms may appear slowly, and treatments usually control the symptoms for a long period of time. As with any disease, a healthy lifestyle will help prevent this disease.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2021 Pamela Oglesby