Need Advanced Treatment for Cardiomyopathy? Orange County Trusts Hoag.

Hoag’s Jeffrey M. Carlton Heart & Vascular Institute is more than just another cardiac program. For those who need treatment for serious cardiac issues, Hoag stands as a beacon of advanced technology, world-class interventional cardiology expertise and patient-centered care through our subspecialized Heart Failure Program.

Patients with progressive cardiac conditions like cardiomyopathy need a team that can accurately diagnose heart failure or cardiomyopathy the first time, then deliver expert care and groundbreaking treatment options that save lives and restore quality of life. Orange County’s choice is Hoag. Visit here to meet the team of dedicated, patient-focused cardiologists, cardiovascular surgeons, dedicated nurse navigators at Hoag.

Read on for more about cardiomyopathy, including symptoms, risk factors, types, potential complications and more. And if you need cardiomyopathy treatment in Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Irvine, Laguna Woods, Mission Viejo or other communities across Orange County, remember: care is right here, at Hoag. Contact us today through our online form or by calling 949-764-5384.

What is Cardiomyopathy?

Cardiomyopathy is an umbrella term for conditions that can impair or alter the heart muscle. These conditions affect the muscular walls of the heart chambers, causing them to become stretched, thinned, thickened or stiff.

As the disease progresses, these changes in the consistency of the heart can affect the heart’s ability to pump blood effectively and efficiently through the body. Depending on the type and severity of the case, cardiomyopathy can sometimes lead to severe symptoms and complications, including heart failure, sudden cardiac arrest and death.

Cardiomyopathy can affect people of all ages. Because the condition often presents no symptoms, many people with serious heart impairment due to cardiomyopathy may not know they have it. In rare cases, sudden cardiac death is the first indication that a person has cardiomyopathy. Instances can involve seemingly healthy young athletes who go into cardiac arrest, have a heart attack or suddenly die after collapsing during practice or games are later found to be the result of undiagnosed cardiomyopathy.

While certain types of cardiomyopathy are inherited and passed down genetically, other types are acquired later in life. Some types of cardiomyopathy can arise as a result of other medical conditions such as heart valve disease or amyloidosis, or due to lifestyle choices like abusing drugs or drinking too much alcohol.

Damage due to cardiomyopathy usually cannot be cured. But in many cases, proper treatment can slow or stop the progression of the disease, preserving heart function and greatly lessening complications and symptoms.

What are the Symptoms of Cardiomyopathy?

In the early stages, cardiomyopathy may present no symptoms at all. However, as the condition progresses, serious symptoms usually begin to appear.

Symptoms of cardiomyopathy, particularly in more advanced cases, include:

  • Trouble breathing during strenuous activities or even while at rest
  • Swelling of the legs, ankles, and feet
  • Bloating due to fluid buildup
  • A recurring cough while lying down
  • Difficulty lying flat to sleep
  • Tiredness or severe fatigue
  • Rapid, pounding, or fluttering heartbeats
  • Chest pain that may range from mild to severe
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness and fainting

What are the Different Types of Cardiomyopathy?

There are three main types of cardiomyopathy: dilated cardiomyopathy, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and restrictive cardiomyopathy.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Dilated cardiomyopathy is a type of cardiomyopathy involving the heart slowly growing larger, with the walls of the heart chambers gradually becoming thinned and stretched. According to the American Heart Association, dilated cardiomyopathy is the most common type of cardiomyopathy, and is mostly diagnosed in those under the age of 50.

Dilated cardiomyopathy can impact both the upper chambers of the heart (the atria) and the lower chambers (the ventricles). Most often, the condition begins in the left ventricle and then spreads to the right ventricle and the atria. Eventually, this thinning can cause the heart to become very weak, leading to the onset of heart failure.

Other symptoms of dilated cardiomyopathy include blood clots in the heart, heart valve disease and irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia).

Dilated cardiomyopathy can be present at birth due to congenital defects due to complications during pregnancy, or it can arise from certain diseases and lifestyle choices. Factors that can cause dilated cardiomyopathy include:

  • Abusing alcohol, also known as alcoholic cardiomyopathy
  • Having a heart attack (myocardial infarction)
  • Untreated high blood pressure
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Thyroid disease
  • HIV
  • Viral hepatitis
  • Bacterial or viral infection that spreads to the heart
  • Abusing certain illegal drugs, including methamphetamine and cocaine
Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a type of cardiomyopathy in which the heart muscle becomes abnormally thickened. In most cases, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy thickens a structure in the heart called the septum, which is the wall between the two lower chambers of the heart (also known as the ventricles).

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is usually caused by genetic factors, as it is often passed down between family members. The muscle thickening the condition causes can make it harder for the heart to maintain adequate blood flow to the body.

In extreme cases, thickening of the septum can block blood from exiting the heart, resulting in a condition called hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy. This condition can also damage or deform the heart’s mitral valve. Other symptoms of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy may include: having a heart murmur, fainting (also known as passing out or syncope) during physical activity and having heart palpitations, which is an abnormal heart rhythm that can feel rapid, fluttering or pounding.

Restrictive Cardiomyopathy

Restrictive cardiomyopathy involves the chambers of the heart slowly becoming stiff and inflexible. That stiffening makes it more difficult for the heart to fully relax between beats, causing blood to collect in the circulatory system. That can lead to fluid buildup in the body and lungs.

Restrictive cardiomyopathy sometimes increases pressure inside the heart, which can cause the upper chambers of the heart (the right and left atrium) to become enlarged. That can prevent the heart from pumping enough blood.

Other symptoms of restrictive cardiomyopathy may include: irregular heartbeats (arrhythmia), a recurring cough and dizziness or lightheadedness.

Restrictive cardiomyopathy is often due to illnesses or other conditions that impact the cardiac muscle (also known as acquired cardiomyopathy). Conditions that can lead to restrictive cardiomyopathy include:

  • Amyloidosis, a condition involving the buildup of protein in tissues and organs. Amyloidosis is the most common cause of restrictive cardiomyopathy.
  • Genetic factors
  • Cardiac sarcoidosis, a condition that can result in scar tissue in the heart
  • Previous radiation treatments for cancer, also known as radiation-induced cardiomyopathy.
  • Hemochromatosis, which involves an abnormal buildup of iron in the tissues.
  • Scleroderma, a rare disease that causes the tightening and hardening of the skin and connective tissues.
Other types of cardiomyopathy include:
  • Takotsubo cardiomyopathy – Also known as stress-induced cardiomyopathy or “broken heart syndrome,” takotsubo cardiomyopathy is a type of cardiomyopathy caused by severe and extended emotional stress, such as the end of a relationship or the death of a loved one. Over time, this can cause the heart’s main pumping chamber, the left ventricle, to become weakened. Most cases occur in older women, with symptoms including chest pain that can be severe, shortness of breath, severe fatigue, dizziness and unexplained sweating.
  • Peripartum cardiomyopathy (PPCM) – Also known as postpartum cardiomyopathy, PPCM is a rare form of the disease that occurs during or after pregnancy. In those with PPCM, the heart chambers grow larger, weakening the heart. This can result in fatigue, low blood pressure, and swelling in the legs and abdomen due to fluid buildup in the liver and lungs.
  • Arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (ARVD) – Also known as arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC), arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia is a rare, inherited form of the disease in which fibrous tissue and fat begin to replace the heart tissue in the right ventricle. This can cause the right ventricle to stretch and thin out, which reduces the ability of the heart to pump blood. The accumulation of fat and fibrous material in the cardiac muscle can also disrupt electrical signals through the heart. Because of this, many people with ARVD experience dangerously abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias), which can lead to an increased risk of cardiac arrest and death.
  • Ischemic cardiomyopathy – Ischemic cardiomyopathy is the most common type of dilated cardiomyopathy. It occurs due to damage caused by a lack of adequate blood supply to the heart muscle — a condition known as ischemia. Ischemic cardiomyopathy is usually caused by coronary artery disease, which involves a sticky substance called plaque building up on the walls of the arteries that supply oxygenated blood to the heart muscle, narrowing them and sometimes blocking them entirely. Without a steady supply of blood, the left ventricle can weaken, decreasing the ability of the heart to pump enough blood.

What Causes Cardiomyopathy?

Depending on the type, cardiomyopathy can be caused by several issues, including underlying disease, illnesses and lifestyle factors. Causes may include:

  • Genetic mutations
  • Long-term high blood pressure
  • Heart tissue damage from a heart attack
  • Heart rhythm or heart valve problems
  • Metabolic disorders, such thyroid disease
  • Infection and inflammation of the heart
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Excessive use of alcohol and certain illegal drugs
  • Radiation therapy for cancer
Can Cardiomyopathy Cause any Serious Complications?

Depending on the type, severity, the patient’s overall health and other factors, cardiomyopathy can lead to several serious and potentially life-threatening complications, including:

  • Heart failure
  • Blood clots in the circulatory system, which can lead to strokes or heart attacks.
  • Heart valve problems, including issues that can cause the four valves of the heart to become misshapen, narrowed or cause them to leak.
  • Cardiac arrest and sudden death
  • Arrhythmias, which are irregular heart rhythms can lead to symptoms like fatigue, fainting or, in severe cases, sudden death

What Are the Risk Factors for Cardiomyopathy?

Risk factors for cardiomyopathy include:

  • Having a family history of cardiomyopathy, heart failure or sudden cardiac arrest
  • Having long-term hypertension
  • Having previously had a heart attack
  • Chronic alcohol abuse
  • Using certain illegal drugs, including meth and cocaine
  • Obesity
  • Radiation or chemotherapy during cancer treatment
Are There Any Ways to Reduce My Risk of Developing Cardiomyopathy?

Because cardiomyopathy can arise from genetic issues or issues that develop in the womb, there is no definite way to prevent yourself from developing cardiomyopathy. However, there are a few steps you can take to prevent yourself from developing the disease due to an acquired condition. These may include:

  • Take the steps necessary to control blood pressure, cholesterol level and diabetes
  • Eat a healthy diet and engage in regular exercise to maintain a healthy weight
  • Manage your stress levels
  • Get regular checkups and take any prescribed medications exactly as directed by your physician
  • Don’t abuse alcohol or illicit drugs

Visit our cardiomyopathy treatment page or cardiomyopathy diagnosis and testing page to learn more.

Need Advanced Cardiomyopathy Care in Orange County? Nobody Knows the Heart Like Hoag.

Hoag’s Jeffrey M. Carlton Heart & Vascular Institute is breaking new ground in cardiac care every day. From our pioneering Nancy and Bill Thompson Heart Valve Center to next-generation care for the aorta at the Elaine & Robert Matranga Aortic Center, Hoag’s dedication to compassionate, patient-centered care for those at risk of, or with, mild to advanced heart failure is clear in everything we do.

That commitment is why U.S. News & World Report rated Hoag among the best hospitals in the nation in multiple cardiac conditions, including Heart Failure, for 2023-2024.

With Hoag in your corner, don’t wait, contact us today through our online form or by calling 949-764-5384.


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