Cardiomyopathy

Cardiomyopathy is a condition that weakens and enlarges your heart muscle, making it harder for your heart to pump blood and deliver it to the rest of your body. There are three main types of cardiomyopathy:

  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
  • Dilated cardiomyopathy
  • Restrictive cardiomyopathy

Cardiomyopathy treatment is important because the disease can lead to heart failure.

Cardiomyopathy: What You Need to Know

Prevention

Most of the time cardiomyopathy isn't preventable, but you can take steps to reduce your risk for heart failure, including:

  • Don't drink alcohol or take drugs such as cocaine. Fletcher Allen offers a drug addiction program.
  • Follow a healthy eating plan rich in fruits, vegetables and lean proteins such as fish, chicken and beans
  • Get regular physical activity
  • Control high blood pressure

Personalized Care

We provide a caring, personal approach to every patient and family we see. We spend as much time with you as you need – answering all your questions and working together to develop a treatment plan that works for you.

Experienced, Trusted Expertise

As one of the leading heart programs in the region, cardiologists at the University of Vermont Medical Group at Fletcher Allen offer a broad range of diagnostic exams and treatments for cardiomyopathy and all types of cardiac problems. Patients have access to cutting-edge technology and work with highly trained and experienced cardiologists who are on the frontiers of cardiac medicine.

What is Cardiomyopathy?

There are three main types of cardiomyopathy:

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy

This type happens when the heart muscle grows too thick, so the heart gets bigger and its chambers get smaller. The thickening heart muscle stiffens the heart, which makes it difficult for it to get enough blood and oxygen, and can cause chest pain. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy can begin at any age, but the condition tends to be worse the earlier in life it starts. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy runs in families and is the most common genetic heart disease.

Dilated cardiomyopathy

This is the most common type of cardiomyopathy, and often develops after a heart attack damages the heart muscle. Dilated cardiomyopathy is a condition where weak heart muscle starts to stretch (dilate). This reduces your heart's ability to pump blood and can result in heart failure. Although dilated cardiomyopathy can affect people of all ages, it happens most often in middle-aged people and is more likely to affect men. Some people have a family history of the condition.

Restrictive cardiomyopathy

The heart muscle in people with restrictive cardiomyopathy becomes stiff, meaning the heart can't stretch to allow enough blood to enter its lower chambers, the ventricles. So blood that would normally enter the heart backs up in your circulatory system, and this usually leads to heart failure. Restrictive cardiomyopathy can happen at any age, but it most often affects older people. The condition may be caused by diseases that affect the heart, or for no known reason (idiopathic). Restrictive cardiomyopathy is the least common type of cardiomyopathy.

You may not experience cardiomyopathy symptoms in the early stages of the condition, but as it advances cardiomyopathy symptoms are likely to appear. Regardless of the type of cardiomyopathy you have, symptoms tend to get worse without treatment. This process can happen quickly or slowly. Cardiomyopathy symptoms may include:

  • Shortness of breath with physical activity or even at rest
  • Swelling of the legs, ankles and feet
  • Abdominal bloating due to fluid buildup
  • Fatigue
  • Irregular heartbeats that feel fast, pounding or fluttering
  • Dizziness
  • Passing out (fainting)

Usually the exact cause of cardiomyopathy is unknown, but several factors can contribute to your risk of developing it, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart valve problems
  • Heart tissue damage from a heart attack
  • Persistent rapid heart rate
  • Metabolic disorders, such as hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism or diabetes
  • Not eating enough essential vitamins or minerals, such as:
       - Thiamin (vitamin B-1)
       - Selenium
       - Calcium
       - Magnesium
  • Pregnancy
  • Alcohol addiction
  • Drug addiction: Fletcher Allen offers a drug addiction program
  • Chemotherapy drugs used to treat cancer
  • Viral infections than can damage your heart
  • Hemochromatosis: iron buildup in your heart muscle
  • Genetic conditions

Diagnosis and Treatment: Cardiomyopathy

Fletcher Allen's physicians are highly trained in performing procedures to diagnose and treat cardiomyopathy such as echocardiogram and pacemaker implantation.

Learn more about cardiomyopathy diagnosis and treatment.

Find a Fletcher Allen physician or call 802-847-4600.