Cardiomyopathy

Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle. It affects any age group and is a serious lifelong condition.

Cardiomyopathy means your heart is unable to pump an adequate supply of blood around the body. 

As cardiomyopathy progresses your heart becomes weaker. 

Some types of cardiomyopathy can cause an irregular heart beat, because the heart muscle becomes stretched.

There are different types of cardiomyopathy, which affect different groups of people. Some types of cardiomyopathy can be inherited. Others are caused by things like viral infections in your heart, or heart attacks.

  • Dilated cardiomyopathy happens when the heart muscle begins to stretch and becomes thinner.
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy occurs if the heart muscle cells enlarge and cause the walls of the heart to thicken. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a common cause of sudden cardiac arrest in young people, including athletes.
  • Restrictive cardiomyopathy tends to affect older adults. The heart becomes rigid because abnormal tissue (e.g. scar tissue) replaces the normal heart muscle so the heart muscle is unable to relax.

Symptoms

If a cardiomyopathy is making your heart not work properly, you may get symptoms like breathlessness, tiredness and swelling in your legs and abdomen (because of fluid build up).

Diagnosis

If your doctor thinks you might have cardiomyopathy, they may do a physical examination and order tests like a chest X-ray or an echocardiogram (heart ultrasound).

If you think there might be hereditary causes of your cardiomyopathy, talk with your doctor about whether you should get your family checked.

Read more about medical tests

Treatment

Treatment depends on the type of cardiomyopathy. The main goals are to:

  • manage conditions that contribute to cardiomyopathy
  • control symptoms
  • prevent it from getting worse
  • reduce complications of cardiomyopathy.

Medicines

Your doctor may prescribe medicines. It’s important to take your medicines as prescribed. You will probably have to take them long term. You also need to have appointments with your local doctor. Read more about medicines

Procedures and devices

Depending on the type of cardiomyopathy, your doctor may recommend surgery or an implantable device like an implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD) or bi-ventricular pacemaker. Read more about heart procedures and devices 

Lifestyle changes

You can also help to reduce the effects of cardiomyopathy and the risk of more heart problems by making lifestyle changes: 

  • Be smoke free
  • Eat less salt: Salt causes your body to retain fluid, which can build up and put more strain on your heart.
  • Limit alcohol: Alcohol can damage your heart. Talk to your doctor about what is right for you.
  • Do regular light to moderate intensity physical activity: Try to do some type of physical activity, such as going for a walk, cycling, lifting light weights and stretching, every day. Do what you can without getting breathless or overtired. You should be able to talk easily while doing physical activity. Talk to your doctor about the type and level of physical activity that is suitable for you. Avoid strenuous activities unless your doctor has approved them.

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Fact sheet

Cardiomyopathy

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