Overview of Cardiomyopathy

What is it?

Cardiomyopathy is a condition where your heart muscle becomes thickened, stretched or weakened.

When the heart muscle changes like this in can have trouble pumping blood around your body.

One of the possible long -term outcomes for women with cardiomyopathy is heart failure.

Types of Coronary Artery Disease

Cardiomyopathy is varied in its nature, as there are four main different types.

The types of cardiomyopathy are:

Restrictive: restrictive cardiomyopathy is a condition where your ventricles do not thicken, yet they still become stiff and rigid and cannot pump blood effectively.

Dilated: dilated cardiomyopathy occurs when your main pumping chamber, the left ventricle, becomes enlarged and weakened so it cannot pump blood effectively.

Hypertrophic: also known as “HOCM”, this is where the ventricles (bottom pumping chambers on your heart) become thickened and stiff, narrowing the chambers. When the chambers are narrow, they cannot pump blood effectively around the body.

Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy “ARVC”: in this condition, the right ventricle of your heart has the muscle replaced with a different type of tissue that is more fibrous and fattier. This is problematic as it can lead to dangerous arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms).

Please click the links for information on Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy and peripartum cardiomyopathy.

Causes

There are several potential different causes for cardiomyopathy:

  • Pregnancy
  • Illicit substances such as amphetamines
  • Genetics, as some types of cardiomyopathies may be genetically inherited
  • Other health conditions such as cardiac sarcoidosis (lumps of cells and inflammation in the heart) and haemochromatosis (too much iron in the heart)
  • Over-consumption of alcohol
  • Infections
  • Prolonged hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Prolonged fast heart rate
  • Heart attacks as damage to the heart muscle can occur

Statistics

It is estimated that around 1 in 500 Australians have Cardiomyopathy, however numbers are considered not representative as early-stages of Cardiomyopathy may not present with any symptoms at all.

Cardiomyopathy and heart failure are the second-leading heart disease for hospital admissions in Australia.

Women in Australia have less hospitalisations than men for Cardiomyopathy and heart failure.

Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms

It does depend on which stage of Cardiomyopathy you have, as early stages of cardiomyopathy can sometimes present without symptoms.

If you have progressing Cardiomyopathy these are some of the symptoms you may experience:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling in the feet and lower legs, also known as oedema
  • Dizziness
  • Palpitations
  • Chest pain
  • Abdominal bloating and swelling

Treatment for Cardiomyopathy

There are many different treatment options available for Cardiomyopathy, it depends on your severity of cardiomyopathy.

It would be best to discuss these treatment options with your doctor.

Medication Treatment For Cardiomyopathy:

there are different medications which may be required for treating cardiomyopathy to help manage your symptoms and maintain your heart function. NPS Medicinewise could be a good place to find out more information about them, as well as speaking to your doctors or pharmacist.

Lifestyle Modifications For Cardiomyopathy:

there are different lifestyle modifications you can do to manage your cardiomyopathy:

  • Eat a healthy heart-friendly diet
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Don’t smoke
  • Exercise regularly

Procedures For Cardiomyopathy:

you may need surgery on your heart if you have Cardiomyopathy.

Defibrillator Insertion: you may need to have a defibrillator inserted if your heart has the chance of going into an abnormal rhythm. If your heart has a dangerous rhythm, it will shock your heart to rest the rhythm.

Pacemaker: a pacemaker regulates your heart rhythm if it is in a rate that may be either too slow, fast or irregular.

Ablation: you may require an ablation to thin out the level of tissues on your ventricle that is reducing blood flow

Heart transplant: you may need a heart transplant if your heart does not respond to treatment.

Prevention and Support

Follow the links below to find out more about how you can help prevent and support loved ones who have experienced Cardiomyopathy

Prevention

Prevention

Whilst some of the causes for cardiomyopathy cannot be avoided (due to factors like genetics), however given that heart attacks can be a cause of heart failure, it is worth adopting prevention strategies for heart disease to reduce your overall risk.
Supporters

Supporters

Reaching out to a support group could be a beneficial way to meet other people and find out more information about Cardiomyopathy, as well as provide support for carers of individuals affected by this heart condition.
Carers

Carers

Caring for someone who has Cardiomyopathy can be very stressful and hard to deal with. If you are struggling to care or be there for a loved one who has this condition seek help and discuss how you feel with someone today.

FAQs

What you need to know

Studies have suggested that women who have the HOCM type of cardiomyopathy present with more symptomatic than men with HOCM, as well as having less of a chance of a survival.

If a woman has a form of cardiomyopathy and is also pregnant, early management of the mother and the pregnancy reduces the overall risk of complications.

A women’s only form of cardiomyopathy can occur before or after pregnancy; peripartum cardiomyopathy.

Long-term outcomes do depend on how early you are diagnosed with cardiomyopathy as well as condition. It is important to speak with your doctors about your long-term management.

If you are diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, we recommend speaking with your doctor and treating team to learn more about daily management.

Research suggests that attending a Secondary Prevention Program for managing Heart Diseases can decrease the chance of being admitted to hospital, reduce your complications as well increase survival rates. One suggestion is cardiac rehabilitation, as these programs will teach you more about your disease, help you recover, empower you to make lifestyle changes to improve heart health as well as reduce your risk of further problems.

Click here to find your nearest cardiac rehabilitation program.

Your doctor may have recommended that you take some new medications if you have cardiomyopathy.

This could be an overwhelming time for you, especially as learn all about your new medications as well as any considerations for taking them. Apart from having a discussion with your doctor and pharmacist, NPS Medicinewise has some great information on medication management, medication disposal as well as risk factors. They also have some great information about medications for your heart, which can be found here.

It’s not too late to start looking after your heart health, even after a diagnosis of AF. Here are some great and easy everyday strategies you can do to look after your heart health:

Don’t smoke, as quitting smoking can reduce your risk by 50% in one year. Quitline would be a great way to start your quitting smoking journey.

Stay active, 30 minutes per day of exercise, such as walking, can reduce your risk by 30% and delivers many positive health benefits. More information about exercise as well as a sample walking session can be found here.

Get some sleep, aim for 7-8 hours’ sleep and aim to try and unplug from your technology (e.g. iPad) one hour before bedtime. The Sleep Health Foundation has many great women’s focused sleep pages for all stages of your life such as your menstrual cycle, pregnancy, new mothers and menopause.

Eat healthy: ensure you watch portion sizes, eat healthy and nourishing foods such as: high fibre foods (including oats and legumes), two pieces of fruit and seven serves of vegetables, reduced salt, three serves of fish per week, reducing saturated fats (such as chicken with skin on, baked goods, fried foods) whilst choosing more lean proteins such as tofu and trimmed meats. The Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute has created some handy factsheets to help you choose correct portions, supermarket shopping, healthy snacks and eating out.

Relax: try and take some time out for yourself, keep connected with friends and family, perhaps try activities such as meditation to help manage your stress levels. Beyond Blue has a great page full of practical stress relieving tips, and it could be worth to try some meditations from apps such as Smiling Mind, Headspace and Calm.

There are support groups available for people living with cardiomyopathy.

The Cardiomyopathy Association of Australia has a support network available for people with the condition and their families.