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  • Debra Wood, RN
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Cardiomyopathy is a type of heart disease. The damaged heart does not pump blood correctly. The disease usually progresses, and people develop life-threatening heart failure. People with cardiomyopathy are also more likely to have irregular heartbeats or arrhythmias.

There are two categories of cardiomyopathy: ischemic and non-ischemic. Ischemic cardiomyopathy is most common. It occurs when the heart is damaged from heart attacks due to coronary artery disease. Non-ischemic cardiomyopathy is less common. It includes types of cardiomyopathy that are not related to coronary artery disease.

There are three main types of non-ischemic cardiomyopathy:

  • Dilated—Damaged heart muscles lead to an enlarged, floppy heart. The heart stretches as it tries to make up for a weakened ability to pump.
  • Hypertrophic—Heart muscle fibers enlarge abnormally. The heart does not relax correctly between beats. The heart wall thickens, leaving less space for blood to fill the chambers, so less blood is pumped from the heart.
  • Restrictive—Parts of the heart wall stiffen. Thickening often occurs due to abnormal tissue invading the heart.
Normal Heart and Heart With Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy.

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy http://services.epnet.com/getimage.aspx?imageiid=8137 8137 Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy_New.jpg Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy NULL jpg Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy NULL \\hgfiler1\intellect\images\Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy_New.jpg NULL 130 NULL 2010-10-11 360 534 Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


In many cases, the exact cause is not known. Possible causes include:

Risk Factors

Factors that increase your chance of getting cardiomyopathy include:


Symptoms vary depending on the type of cardiomyopathy and its severity.

Cardiomyopathy leads to heart failure and the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Shortness of breath, often worse when lying down or with activity
  • Cough
  • Swelling in feet or legs
  • Chest pain
  • Irregular heart rhythm


You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. A stethoscope will be used to listen to your heart. Cardiomyopathies often produce heart murmurs and other abnormal sounds.

Images of your chest may be needed. This can be done with:

Tests may be done to determine how your heart functions. These can be done with:

Your bodily fluids and tissue may need to be tested. This can be done with:


Heart failure may be due to blockages in the arteries. Treatments to relieve these blockages include angioplasty, stent placement, and coronary artery bypass surgery. These may lead to improved heart function and symptoms. For certain genetic causes, other treatments may also improve heart function. For many people, treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms and preventing further damage.


Actively treat hypertension, coronary artery diseases, and their risk factors. This is the best way to prevent most cases of cardiomyopathy. However, other less common causes are not preventable. If you have a family history of the disease, ask your doctor about screening tests. Do this especially before starting an intense exercise program.


The cause of the initial damage is often not found, but may include:


Causes may include:

  • Inherited—sometimes present at birth but often developing in teens
  • Aging, associated with hypertension


Causes are usually related to another condition, such as:





  • Dilated cardiomyopathy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114780/Dilated-cardiomyopathy. Accessed September 13, 2020.
  • Peripartum cardiomyopathy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115915/Peripartum-cardiomyopathy. Accessed September 13, 2020.
  • Restrictive cardiomyopathy. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114748/Restrictive-cardiomyopathy. Accessed September 13, 2020.
  • Explore cardiomyopathy. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/cm. Accessed September 13, 2020.


  • Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.