What is it?

Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle. In most cases, this disease makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood to the body, which can then lead to heart failure.  There are two main classifications of cardiomyopathy:

  • Ischemic cardiomyopathy: damage due to blockages in the coronary arteries.
  • Non-ischemic cardiomyopathy: damage due to heart muscle thinning and weakening or thickening and restricting.

As cardiomyopathy worsens, the heart becomes weaker. It is less able to pump blood throughout the body and may be incapable of maintaining a normal electrical rhythm. The result can be heart failure or irregular heartbeats called arrhythmias. A weakened heart also can cause other complications, such as heart valve problems.


  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing, especially with physical exertion.
  • Fatigue.
  • Swelling in the ankles, feet, legs, abdomen and veins in the neck.
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness.
  • Fainting.
  • Arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats).
  • Chest pain, especially after physical exertion or heavy meals.
  • Heart murmurs (unusual sounds associated with heartbeats).

Risk factors

  • Family history of cardiomyopathy, heart failure or sudden cardiac arrest.
  • A disease or condition that can lead to cardiomyopathy such as coronary artery disease, heart attack or a viral infection.
  • Diabetes or other metabolic diseases.
  • Obesity.
  • Unmanaged high blood pressure.
  • Long-term alcohol or substance abuse.

Diagnosing cardiomyopathy

  • Complete medical history and physical examination.
  • Blood tests.
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG) or other heart monitor testing (Holter monitor).
  • Echocardiogram.
  • Stress test.
  • Imaging studies such as a chest x-ray or CT scan.
  • Cardiac catheterization.
  • Myocardial biopsy.

Treating cardiomyopathy

  • Lower your risk by not smoking, eating a healthy diet, and being active.
  • Treat underlying conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
  • Medications to:
    • Lower your blood pressure.
    • Manage your heart rate and rhythm.
    • Remove excess fluids (diuretics).
    • Prevent blood clots from forming (blood thinners).
    • Reduce inflammation.
  • Procedures.
    • Alcohol septal ablation.
    • Implanted devices.
      • Pacemaker.
      • Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) device.
      • Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD).
      • Left ventricular assist device (LVAD).
    • Heart transplant.