• What Are Cardiomyopathies?


    Cardiomyopathy is a general term that refers to diseases of the heart muscle. In cardiomyopathy, the heart muscle becomes enlarged, thick or tough, and cannot beat as well as it should. The heart is less able to pump blood effectively and prone to heart failure, heart valve problems, and to arrhythmias, including atrial fibrillation (Afib or AF). People with Afib are five times more likely to have a stroke than those who do not have Afib. This is why stroke prevention is often an important consideration for people with cardiomyopathies.

    Cardiomyopathy can affect people of all ages, even children. Continue reading to learn more about the different types of cardiomyopathy.

    While cardiomyopathy is a serious condition, it is usually treatable. Treatment options include medication, surgery, implantable devices and minimally invasive procedures. The type of treatment your doctor recommends will depend on the type of cardiomyopathy and the extent of the problem. Learn more about treatment options here.

    This diagram shows the different types of cardiomyopathies that may be present at birth or may develop over time. Cardiomyopathy is a general term that refers to diseases where the heart muscle becomes enlarged, thick or tough, preventing the heart from beating as it should. People with cardiomyopathies are more likely to develop cardiac arrhythmias, including atrial fibrillation, which is a significant risk factor for stroke.

    Types of Cardiomyopathy

    There are different types of cardiomyopathy, including cardiomyopathies that are congenital (present at birth) or acquired (developed during your lifetime). It is not uncommon to be born with cardiomyopathy but not diagnosed until you are older.

    Dilated Cardiomyopathy

    In dilated cardiomyopathy, the chambers of the heart become enlarged. If left untreated, dilated cardiomyopathy can lead to heart failure. According to the American Heart Association, dilated cardiomyopathy is the most common of all cardiomyopathies, and occurs in adults between the ages of 20 and 60. Men are more likely than women to develop cardiomyopathy.

    In dilated cardiomyopathy, both the upper and lower chambers of the heart (the atria and the ventricles) are affected. The heart muscle gradually begins to stretch, making it difficult for the heart to contract normally. As a result, the heart cannot pump blood effectively. Over time, heart failure can occur, as well as arrhythmias, including atrial fibrillation.

    Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

    In hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (also known as HCM), the heart’s walls become thick and are unable to flex as they should. As a result, blood flow out of the heart may be blocked (obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy).  Another type of HCM, known as non-obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, occurs when the thickened muscle does not block blood flow out of the heart.

    Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy as a whole is the most common type of cardiomyopathy. According to the American Heart Association, one out of every 500 people has HCM. It can develop at any age and can cause of sudden cardiac arrest.  

    Restrictive Cardiomyopathy

    In restrictive cardiomyopathy, the lower heart chambers (the ventricles) grow stiffer and more rigid as the condition progresses. This occurs because abnormal tissue is replacing the regular heart muscle. The abnormal tissue may include scar tissue. This type of cardiomyopathy is more common in older people. As with other types of cardiomyopathy, the heart becomes increasingly ineffective at pumping blood, and is more prone to heart failure and arrhythmias, including atrial fibrillation.

    Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia (ARVD)

    Arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (ARVD) is a rare form of cardiomyopathy in which the walls of the right lower chamber of the heart (the right ventricle) die and are replaced by scar tissue. ARVD can disrupt the heart’s rhythms, causing arrhythmias, including atrial fibrillation, and sudden cardiac arrest. ARVD mostly affects teens and young adults, and is believed to be a hereditary problem.

    Unclassified Cardiomyopathy

    There are other forms of cardiomyopathy that develop as a result of other conditions and cannot be grouped with main types listed above.

    Learn More

    You can learn more about cardiomyopathies in the SecondsCount Cardiomyopathies Center, found here.