What is Cardiomyopathy and How Does It Affect You?
Cardiomyopathy is a long word but let’s break it down. It simply means heart (cardio) muscle disease (myopathy); diseases of the heart muscle.
Yes, disease with an "S". They’re four main types of cardiomyopathy that vary in signs, symptoms and treatment. They are: Dilated Cardiomyopathy, Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, Restrictive Cardiomyopathy and Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia.
This, the most common type of cardiomyopathy, occurs in adults ages 20 to 60. It affects both the lower and upper chambers of the heart. It tends to start in the lower left chamber (ventricle), which stretches and becomes thinner, resulting in an enlarged heart. The problem often spreads to the other lower chamber before moving upward into the atria (upper chamber). It should also be noted that Dilated Cardiomyopathy can lead to heart failure.
Also, very common, is Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, which can affect men and woman equally of any age. In fact, it is a common cause of sudden cardiac arrest in young people. It occurs when the heart muscles enlarge and thicken in the ventricles, and in the event where it blocks the blood flow out of the ventricle, it is called Obstructive Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy.
In any case, however, the inside of the left ventricle shrinks and stiffens, which makes it less able to fill with blood. This can result in high blood pressure as well as arrhythmias. Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy is usually an inherited condition.
This type of cardiomyopathy tends to affect older adults and can be caused by hemochromatosis, sarcoidosis, amyloidosis, connective tissue disorders and some cancer treatments. Restrictive Cardiomyopathy is where the heart’s muscles become rigid due to abnormalities in the tissue (such as scar tissue). As a result, the ventricles eventually are unable to fill with blood and over time blood flow in the heart is lessened. This can lead to heart failure or arrhythmias.
Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia/Cardiomyopathy (ARVC)
In ARVC, the proteins that hold the heart together do not develop properly, so that heart muscle cells become detached. In response to this, fatty deposits build up to repair the damage. These changes affect the walls of (usually) the right ventricle, which becomes thin and stretched and results in blood not being properly pumped around your body. It can also cause abnormal heart rhythms and symptoms such as: palpitations, lightheadedness, fainting, swollen ankles/legs/abdomen and breathlessness.
As we mentioned earlier, the causes of cardiomyopathy vary with each type, but they include: heredity, excessive alcohol use, high blood pressure, diabetes and old age. To find out if you are at risk for or have any form of cardiomyopathy, please see your doctor immediately for that check up!