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Cardiomyopathy is a general term for a number of diseases that weaken the heart muscle. There are three basic types.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy
The most common type. Ventricles are enlarged and weak and do not pump blood well.

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
Another type is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, also known as idiopathic hypertrophic subaortic stenosis (IHSS). The heart muscle of the ventricles thickens, which causes the cavity of the ventricles to be smaller than normal.

Restrictive Cardiomyopathy
The third type, and the rarest form of cardiomyopathy is restrictive cardiomyopathy. Again, the heart muscle walls of the ventricles become very thick.

What Causes Cardiomyopathy?
In many cases, no cause can be found for cardiomyopathy, regardless of the type.

Dilated cardiomyopathy may be caused by heavy alcohol intake, infection or inflammation of the heart muscle, pregnancy, high blood pressure, and/or chemotherapy. About 60% of the cases of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy are inherited. The other 40% have no known cause.

Diseases may cause restrictive cardiomyopathy, but many times the cause is unknown. Diseases include fibrosis (tough fibers form in the heart muscle), collagen-vascular diseases and amyloidosis (the build-up of protein fibers in the heart). Some diseases that cause restrictive cardiomyopathy are inherited. These include Fabry's disease (build-up of a product of metabolism in the heart), hemochromatosis (build-up of iron in the heart), and sarcoidosis (tumor-like growths in the heart).

What are the Symptoms of Cardiomyopathy?
Symptoms vary according to the type of cardiomyopathy and the severity of the disease. With dilated cardiomyopathy symptoms often develop gradually, and many people may not have symptoms for a while. Some of the common symptoms include feeling tired and weak, chest/stomach pains and shortness of breath.

Many people with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy don't have symptoms. Some symptoms might be
difficulty breathing, chest discomfort, fatigue and fainting. Exercise may bring on symptoms.

Symptoms vary for people with restrictive cardiomyopathy. They often include weakness and difficulty breathing (esp. during exercise).

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How is Cardiomyopathy Treated?
Treatments vary according to severity and type. Medications may be used to help the heart pump better, lower the heart rate, or help the body get rid of excess fluid. A diet low in sodium may be advised if swelling and/or shortness of breath is a problem.

Surgery may be suggested to improve blood flow, to replace a valve, or in some cases a heart transplant may be needed. It's important to have regular heart check-ups, limit activity (plan frequent rest periods throughout the day), have very good dental care (check-up every 6 months), weigh daily to check for fluid build-up.

Cardiac Catheterization is a procedure done with a catheter. The catheter is inserted into a vein or artery and threaded into the heart. This test measures the pressures in the heart, the pumping ability of the heart, the blood flow in the heart and coronary arteries and sometimes the electrical activity of the heart. A heart muscle biopsy may be done during the catheterization to find the cause of the cardiomyopathy.

It's Important To:

1. Have regular cardiac check-ups

2. Limit activity
(plan frequent rest periods throughout the day)

3. Have very good dental care
(check-up every 6 months)

4. Weigh daily to check for fluid build-up (after you first urinate in the morning)