Heart disease has become an accepted consequence of a fast-paced life in America today. According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States. One type of heart disease that affects men and women of all ages, including children, is cardiomyopathy, a synonym for “disease of the heart.” It is the leading cause of heart transplants in America, affecting as many as fifty thousand people annually.

Cardiomyopathy: What’s in a Name?

The word “”cardiomyopaty”” comes from the Greek roots:

  • “cardio” meaning “heart”
  • “myo” meaning “muscle”
  • “pathy” meaning “disease.”

Cardiomyopathy and Circulation

Cardiomyopathy is a progressive illness that directly affects the heart muscle. In most cases, the affected heart muscle loses its ability to pump effectively. This inability to pump weakens the heart further and compromises circulation throughout the body and to other vital organs.

Damage to other organs can have serious consequences such as kidney failure. A weakened circulation can affect the extremities, causing swelling in the hands and feet. The heart gradually becomes enlarged and other serious cardiovascular conditions, such as arrhythmias, clotting may develop or even sudden death, may occur. According to the American Heart Association, 36 percent of young athletes who die suddenly have cardiomyopathy.

Causes and Factors of Cardiomyopathy

Cardiomyopathy may be caused by many factors, including viral infections, long-standing and severe high-blood pressure and heart attacks. Other forms of cardiomyopathy may result from drug use, metabolic disorders and the stress of pregnancy. In some cases, removing the offending agent or treating the metabolic disorder is the treatment option. In inherited forms of the disease, the only treatment may be a heart transplant.

Types of Cardiomyopathy

Cardiomyopathy comes in three forms. Almost ninety percent of all cardiomyopathies are known as dilated cardiomyopathy. Dilated cardiomyopathies involve an enlargement and weakening of the heart.

Another cardiomyopathy “known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy” is mainly a genetic disorder leading to a thickening of the heart muscle.

Finally, restrictive cardiomyopathy, a relatively rare form of heart disease, can develop as a result of underlying illnesses like amyloidosis, hemochromatosis or sarcoidosis. Restrictive cardiomyopathy causes the muscles in the heart to become somewhat rigid.