In a healthy heart, the muscle contracts and relaxes with ease. With each pump, oxygen-rich blood is pushed out into the body. There, it nourishes organs, bones and cells. Cardiomyopathy causes the heart muscle to grow weak, which reduces the heart’s ability to pump blood. If ignored, cardiomyopathy can cause a variety of dangerous and deadly complications. These include heart failure and sudden cardiac arrest.


  • Arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia develops when scar tissue replaces muscle in the right ventricle muscle that has died.
  • Dilated cardiomyopathy, the most common type of cardiomyopathy, occurs when weakened heart muscle becomes enlarged.
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is typically the result of gene abnormalities in the heart muscle and occurs when heart muscle thickens.
  • Restrictive cardiomyopathy develops when normal heart muscle is replaced by something else, like scar tissue.


  • Ankle, leg, foot and abdominal swelling
  • Breathing trouble or feeling short of breath
  • Chest pain, particularly when physically active
  • Dizziness and/or fainting
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Frequent fatigue


  • There is no way to prevent inherited cases of cardiomyopathy.
  • For those without a family history of cardiomyopathy, limiting risk factors is the only known prevention.

Risk Factors

  • Abuse of alcohol or illicit drugs (particularly cocaine and amphetamines)
  • Autoimmune diseases, such as connective tissue disease
  • Being pregnant
  • Certain radiation and chemotherapy treatments
  • Excessive iron in the body
  • Family history of cardiomyopathy
  • Inflammation caused by sarcoidosis
  • Heart disease, heart infection, high blood pressure, thyroid disease or diabetes


  • Examination and discussion. Your provider starts with a review of your family and personal medical history. A physical exam is also performed. In addition to reviewing troublesome symptoms, your provider will listen to your heart with a stethoscope for signs of cardiomyopathy.
  • Blood tests. A small amount of blood may be drawn from your body. This is used to help providers identify the signs of cardiomyopathy in your body.
  • Imaging tests. You may undergo a variety of imaging tests. Common options include X-ray, electrocardiogram (EKG), echocardiogram (Echo) and stress tests. Each of these gives a different perspective on the form and function of your heart and helps identify the presence of cardiomyopathy.


  • Lifestyle management. A healthy, well-rounded diet and regular exercise often reduce cardiomyopathy symptoms. You also should stop smoking, obtain a healthy weight, practice stress management techniques and manage other underlying health conditions.
  • Medication. Various medications are used to treat different types cardiomyopathy. Medications are available to help regain a normal heart rhythm, lower blood pressure, prevent dangerous blood clots and more.
  • Surgical intervention. When other treatments don’t work, surgery is available. Options include pacemaker implantation, heart transplantation and removal or repair of problematic areas in the heart.

Follow-up Care

  • Regular checkups ensure worsened symptoms are detected and stopped early. Also, if your treatment isn’t working, your provider can adjust it for improved results.
  • With pacemaker implantation, follow up with your provider to ensure it works well.


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