Also indexed as:Dilated Congestive Cardiomyopathy, Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, Inherited Cardiomyopathy, Restrictive Cardiomyopathy
Breathe easier and return your heart to better health by dealing with the damage caused by cardiomyopathy. According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may be helpful.
Cardiomyopathy: Main Image

About This Condition

Cardiomyopathy refers to abnormalities in the structure or function of the heart muscle. There are three major types of cardiomyopathy: dilated congestive, hypertrophic, and restrictive.

The most prevalent form is dilated congestive cardiomyopathy (DCM). In people with DCM, the heart muscle is damaged, most commonly by coronary artery disease (atherosclerosis).1 People with diabetes have been reported to be at increased risk of DCM.2 DCM can also be triggered by alcohol abuse, infections, exposure to certain drugs and toxins, nutritional deficiencies, connective tissue diseases, hereditary disorders, and pregnancy.

In DCM, the heart gradually loses its efficiency as a pump. Cardiomyopathy is a serious health condition and requires expert medical care rather than self-treatment. However, because of the associations between cardiomyopathy and diseases such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, hypertension, and congestive heart failure, lifestyle recommendations for the prevention of these conditions may also help prevent DCM.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is usually a hereditary disorder, although the incidence of this form of cardiomyopathy may also be higher in people with hypertension.3 Restrictive cardiomyopathy is usually due to a connective tissue disease, cancer, or an autoimmune condition. Both hypertrophic and restrictive cardiomyopathies are relatively uncommon.


People with cardiomyopathy may have difficulty breathing during light exertion, and they may become fatigued easily. Other chronic symptoms are swelling around the ankles and an enlarged abdomen.

Healthy Lifestyle Tips

Cardiomyopathy occurs with greater frequency in people who drink to excess.4 Alcoholics are at significantly greater risk of developing a deficiency of thiamine (vitamin B1).5, 6 They also may develop a form of thiamine deficiency called wet beri beri or Shoshin beri beri, which frequently includes cardiomyopathy.7, 8 See “Nutritional supplements that may be helpful,” below, for more information.

Among alcoholics, the risk of developing DCM is greater for women than for men.9 Many doctors suggest that people with cardiomyopathy abstain from alcohol consumption. People with alcohol-induced cardiomyopathy who avoid alcohol may regain their health.

Moderate to heavy physical activity can be life-threatening for people with cardiomyopathy;10 however, appropriate exercise often improves the condition.11, 12, 13, 14How much is “too much” varies from person to person. Any exercise program undertaken by someone with cardiomyopathy requires professional supervision.

The risk of being diagnosed with cardiomyopathy goes up with the number of cigarettes smoked per day.15, 16 However, a few studies have reported a paradoxical decrease in the death rate among smokers with DCM compared with nonsmokers who have this disease.17, 18 While the meaning of this association remains unclear, virtually all doctors recommend that smokers with DCM quit smoking for a wide variety of health-related reasons.

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The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2018.