Cardiomyopathy - What Should You Know
by Dr. Rakesh Sarkar
Cardiomyopathy is a heart muscle condition that worsens with time and is life-threatening if left untreated. It can be an outcome of inherited genetic features or stem from different health conditions like alcohol use, hyperthyroidism, or heart disease. It is a progressive condition of the myocardium which leads to making the heart unable to pump sufficient blood throughout the body.
The condition can lead to heart failure, irregular heartbeat, and many other various complications. Most types of this condition are genetic and are experienced by children and younger individuals. In this blog, we will take a closer look at the condition and share information about this condition comprehensively. However, this blog is for only informational purposes and doesn’t interfere with doctor’s consultations.
How many types of cardiomyopathy are there?
There are four types of cardiomyopathy and they are:
- Dilated cardiomyopathy- Also known as an enlarged heart, this type occurs when there is an enlargement in the heart muscle and it becomes weak to pump blood effectively. Genetics are one of the common reasons or it can be because of coronary artery disease
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy- This type occurs when there is a thickness in the walls of the heart and avert blood from flowing through the heart. It causes stiffness in the heart and enhances the risk of electrical issues
- Arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia- This type is rare and leads to irregular heart rhythms including other anomalies causing inappropriate right ventricle functioning
- Restrictive cardiomyopathy- This type occurs because of stiffness in the ventricles and the probable causes are heart scarring, heart disease, and cardiac amyloid
What are the symptoms of cardiomyopathy?
The symptoms of cardiomyopathy can be observed easily so it is important not to overlook them and consult the doctor as soon as possible. The common cardiomyopathy symptoms are:
- Shortness of breath
- Edema in the feet, legs, ankles and other body parts
- Fainting spells
- High blood pressure
- Bloated abdomen
- General weakness
- Chest pain
- Irregular heart rhythms
- Heart palpitations
How is cardiomyopathy caused?
Healthcare experts categorize cardiomyopathy depending on the general cause and these categories are:
- Ischemic cardiomyopathy- Heart attacks or coronary artery disease are the main causes
- Non-ischemic cardiomyopathy- Types not linked to coronary artery disease
Healthcare experts don’t know the exact causes of cardiomyopathy, however, it is believed that there are conditions that can enhance the risk. These factors are:
- Autoimmune diseases
- Endocrine conditions like diabetes and thyroid disease
- Family history of heart failure
- High cholesterol disease
What tests are required to diagnose cardiomyopathy?
If the healthcare expert detects a heart condition, then certain tests are ordered for cardiomyopathy diagnosis. Cardiologists initiate a complete evaluation that comprises a range of diagnostic tests such as:
- Cardiac CT- It involves using the X-rays for making videos of the heart and blood vessels
- Cardiac MRI- This test is ordered for creating heart images with the use of radio waves and magnets
- Ambulatory monitoring- It helps in tracking the heart rhythm of the patient
- Stress test- This test is ordered to understand how the patient’s heart functions when the heart rate increases
- Echocardiogram- This test assists in creating the blood flow and heartbeat images
- Electrocardiogram- It is ordered for evaluating the electrical activity of the heart
- Myocardial biopsy- With this test, it is easier for the doctor to study the heart muscle tissue and identify the changes in cell
- Cardiac Catheterization-It assists the doctor to measure the blood flow of the heart and the pressure using a catheter.
How is cardiomyopathy treated?
The primary focus of cardiomyopathy is managing the symptoms and slowing down the progression of this condition. The doctor asks a person with this condition to make regular visits for checkups and to keep an eye on the heart’s health. Here are some options recommended to the patient for cardiomyopathy treatment:
- Medications- The doctor recommends certain medications like blood thinners, beta-blockers, and medications for cholesterol. Heart medications are given to help in improving the blood flow and managing the cardiomyopathy symptoms
- Correcting arrhythmia with devices- In some cases, the doctor recommends devices to correct arrhythmia. The devices involved are pacemakers or implantable cardioverter defibrillators to treat abnormal heart rhythms.
- Improving blood flow with devices- The doctor might also recommend some devices so that the heart can pump blood proficiently. Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) devices benefit in improving the blood flow and also effectively control the contractions between the left and right side of the heart
- Surgery- If an individual with a cardiomyopathy condition experiences severe symptoms, then the doctor might recommend surgery. Usually, surgery is recommended when other treatment options aren’t working well
How to prevent the risk of cardiomyopathy?
Cardiomyopathy cannot be prevented as some of its types are inherited, however, you can involve some steps for reducing the risk of a condition leading to cardiomyopathy. Here are some precautionary steps:
- Make sure to manage your blood pressure
- Keep your cholesterol within the healthy range
- Look after the underlying conditions like diabetes and sleep apnea
- Take medications as instructed
- Schedule regular checkups with your healthcare expert
Cardiomyopathy is a life-threatening heart condition hence it is important to be aware of the symptoms and not ignore them. If you think you have any symptoms related to the condition, visit a cardiologist right away. Make sure to ask the questions if you are not informed about this disease. Make sure to follow the instructions as given by the doctor and consider the treatment options primarily surgery if it is recommended. With proper medications and other treatment options, you can enhance your quality of life.
Can you completely recover from cardiomyopathy?
No, recovering from cardiomyopathy completely is not probable as there is no cure available. You can take some steps for managing the condition and slowing down its progression. Make sure to involve healthy lifestyle choices and seek clinical treatment right away if you want to live a life full of quality.
What is the best exercise to follow for cardiomyopathy?
You can include light exercise in your daily routine. It will help you in reducing your heart rate and blood pressure. However, make sure to consult your doctor as some might recommend including exercises like jogging, walking, and cycling.