What Is Cardiomyopathy?

Cardiomyopathy is a common type of heart disease. It affects an estimated one in 500 U.S. adults, though its prevalence may be higher given how this condition often goes undiagnosed, says the CDC.

Knowing the signs and symptoms can help you determine whether it’s time to see your doctor. Here’s more about different types of cardiomyopathy, and how to contact Hunterdon Cardiovascular Associates (HCA) to receive a proper diagnosis and treatment.

What Is Cardiomyopathy?

Cardiomyopathy refers to a group of heart conditions in which the heart muscle becomes diseased and struggles to pump blood to other parts of the body. This reduction in the heart’s ability to pump blood can lead to a number of serious, life-threatening complications including blood clots, heart failure, and cardiac arrest.

There are several types of cardiomyopathy—each of which affect the heart muscle in different ways. These conditions may cause the heart muscle to thicken or stiffen, or fill with substances it shouldn’t be exposed to.

The exact cause is unknown, though risk factors for this disease include chronic high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes.

Types of Cardiomyopathy

A cardiologist can use a variety of diagnostic tests to identify the type of cardiomyopathy you have. Common types include:

  • Dilated cardiomyopathy. In this type of cardiomyopathy, the pumping chamber of the heart becomes enlarged and cannot effectively pump blood out of the heart.
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. In this disease, the heart muscle becomes thickened causing difficulty with pumping blood.
  • Arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy. Also known as arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia, this heart condition is characterized by irregular heartbeats and rhythms that may be caused by scar tissue.
  • Restrictive cardiomyopathy. As the least common type of cardiomyopathy, this disease occurs when the heart muscle becomes stiffened or scarred, and cannot expand and fill with blood between heartbeats.
  • Transthyretin amyloid cardiomyopathy (ATTR-CM). ATTR-CM occurs when a type of protein is deposited into the walls of the pumping chamber of the heart—causing it to become stiffened. This renders it unable to relax so it can fill with blood and pump blood out of the heart.


Cardiomyopathy doesn’t always cause symptoms. When it does, it usually means the disease is progressing and becoming worse. Common symptoms include:

  • Difficulty breathing, or shortness of breath
  • Irregular heart rate or heart palpitations
  • Pressure or discomfort in the chest
  • Swelling in the ankles and legs
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness and fainting
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Coughing while lying down

Cardiomyopathy Treatment

Treatment depends on its type and severity. The goal of treatment is to control your symptoms, prevent your condition from getting worse, and reduce your risk for complications.

Cardiomyopathy may be treated using medications, therapy, and/or surgery.

Medications may be prescribed to lower your blood pressure, improve blood flow, and prevent blood clots. Non-surgical ablation techniques may be used to increase blood flow and destroy pieces of heart tissue contributing to your symptoms. Surgery may be used to implant surgical devices like pacemakers or defibrillators that improve heart function, or to remove parts of the heart muscle causing problems.

Your cardiologist can discuss all your available treatment options based on your type of cardiomyopathy and its severity.

Contact HCA today at (908) 788-1710 to schedule an appointment if you are experiencing symptoms of cardiomyopathy. HCA is devoted to providing the highest quality of care in a patient-centered environment. Our offices are conveniently located in Flemington, Clinton, and Bridgewater, and we have subspecialty clinics available to ensure our patients receive the best possible care for their conditions.

Posted in: Cardiovascular Diseases

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