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Cardiovascular System

Cardiomyopathy literally means disease of the heart muscle Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle. This leads to impairment of the heart's ability to pump blood, and eventually to heart failure. The name comes from the roots cardio meaning "heart," myo meaning "muscle" and pathy meaning "disease." The known causes of cardiomyopathy are many, and include coronary artery disease and valvular heart disease.

Cardiomyopathy occurs in three major types:

  • Dilated cardiomyopathy. This type involves enlargement of one or more of your heart's chambers.
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This form involves thickening of your heart's muscle.
  • Restrictive cardiomyopathy. This type results in your heart muscle becoming more rigid.

You can take steps to reduce your risk of developing cardiomyopathy. If you have the condition, treatment depends on what type you have and may include medications, implantable devices or, in severe cases, a heart transplant.


The causes of the common forms of cardiomyopathy include:

  • Dilated cardiomyopathy. In people with this most common form of cardiomyopathy, one or more of the heart chambers become enlarged (dilated) and their pumping ability becomes less forceful. Although this type can affect people of all ages, it occurs most often in middle-age people, with an incidence greater among men than women. About one in five people with dilated cardiomyopathy are believed to have inherited the condition.

  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This type involves the abnormal growth or thickening of your heart muscle, particularly affecting the muscle of the left ventricle, the major pumping chamber of your heart. As thickening occurs, the heart tends to stiffen and the size of the pumping chamber may shrink, interfering with your heart's ability to deliver blood to your body. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is responsible for about 2 percent to 6 percent of all cases of cardiomyopathy. Although it can develop at any age, it tends to occur most often between the ages of 20 and 40. Researchers have identified abnormal genes that predispose people to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. More than half of affected people have a family history of the disease.

  • Restrictive cardiomyopathy. The heart muscle in people with restrictive cardiomyopathy becomes rigid and less elastic, interfering with the expansion and filling of the heart's ventricles with blood between heartbeats or contractions. While restrictive cardiomyopathy can occur at any age, it tends to affect older people most often. It's much less common than the other types of cardiomyopathy. Restrictive cardiomyopathy can occur for no known reason (idiopathic) or may result from abnormal proteins or cell products being deposited in the heart (amyloidosis).

In most people, the cause of cardiomyopathy is unknown. In some people, however, doctors are able to identify a cause or contributing factors, including some that affect the heart and cardiovascular system. For example, any of the following conditions may cause or contribute to dilated cardiomyopathy:

  • Sustained high blood pressure

  • Heart valve problems

  • Heart tissue damage from a previous heart attack

  • Chronic rapid heart rate

  • Metabolic disorders, such as thyroid disease or diabetes

  • Nutritional deficiencies of essential vitamins and minerals, such as thiamin (vitamin B-1), selenium, calcium and magnesium

  • Pregnancy

  • Excessive use of alcohol over many years

  • Abuse of cocaine or antidepressant medications, such as tricyclic antidepressants

  • Use of some chemotherapeutic drugs to treat cancer

  • Certain viral infections, which may injure the heart and trigger cardiomyopathy

Hemochromatosis is a disorder in which your body doesn't properly metabolize iron, causing the accumulation of iron in your heart muscle. This can lead to a weakening of the heart muscle, resulting in the appearance of dilated cardiomyopathy.

An additional, rare type of cardiomyopathy called arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (ARVD) results in muscle tissue in the right ventricle being replaced by fat, triggering abnormal heart rhythms. In many people there appears to be a genetic basis for ARVD.


Cardiomyopathy > 1 > 2 > 3 > 4

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This information is provided for general medical education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient's medical condition.
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