Sometime simply called an enlarged heart, cardiomyopathy is a general term for a heart muscle with disease or abnormality. Hearts with cardiomyopathy cannot pump blood efficiently due to increased size, thickness, or stiffness. Cardiomyopathies get more severe without treatment and can lead to heart failure and abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias/dysrhythmias).
While cardiomyopathy can be genetic, it can also result from high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, metabolic disease, or infections.
There are three main types of cardiomyopathy: dilated, hypertrophic, and restrictive cardiomyopathy. Treatment varies depending on type and severity and can range from medications to surgical implants or even heart transplant.
While initially there may be no signs of cardiomyopathy, symptoms usually manifest and can include:
- Swelling in legs, ankles, and feet
- Bloating of the abdomen
- Chest discomfort or pressure
- Cough while lying down
- Dizziness and fainting
- Irregular heartbeats that feel rapid or pounding
While cardiomyopathy can be genetic or result from other conditions, it can also occur without a known direct cause. Some contributing factors can include:
- Long-term high blood pressure
- Heart tissue damage from a heart attack
- Chronic rapid heart rate
- Heart valve problems
- Metabolic disorders such as obesity, thyroid disease, or diabetes
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Pregnancy complications
- Use of cocaine, amphetamines, or anabolic steroids
- Use of some chemotherapy drugs and radiation
- Certain infections, especially those that inflame the heart
- Iron buildup in the heart muscle
- Sarcoidosis (a condition that causes inflammation and lumps of cell growth)
- Amyloidosis (a disorder that causes the buildup of abnormal proteins)
- Connective tissue disorders
While cardiomyopathy may not be preventable, you can reduce your chance of most types of heart disease by living a heart-healthy lifestyle. This includes a healthy diet, regular exercise, sufficient sleep, reduced stress, controlled blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes, and an avoidance of alcohol and drugs.