Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Cardiomyopathy is a condition where the heart cannot pump blood efficiently due to the left ventricle being stretched, thin and weak. Dilated cardiomyopathy can affect both children and adults. In some cases, a mutated gene is inherited from the parent and inherited by the children.

In most cases causes are unknown. In other cases, causes may include:

  • toxins
  • a viral infection
  • valve defects

This condition is common in males, age 20 to 50 but, can occur in women too.

The cause is not often determined although several conditions can lead to the weakening of the left ventricles and include:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Diabetes
  • Viral infection in the heart
  • High blood pressure
  • Coronary heart disease, heart attack
  • Thyroid disease, viral hepatitis, and HIV
  • Unhealthy lifestyle – such as alcohol and drug abuse
  • Auto-immune disease
  • Heart valve problem
  • Pregnancy
  • certain drugs
  • neuromuscular disorders like MS


The symptoms may start slowly or come on suddenly, however, once diagnosed, symptoms are controllable with medication or other treatments. Many people are able to live with cardiomyopathy without symptoms or minimal symptoms.

Some symptoms people experience include:

  • Chest pain
  • swelling in the lower extremities
  • fatigue
  • palpitations
  • dizziness or light-headedness
  • fainting


Treatment aims are to make the heart stronger and clear the blood of substances that enlarge the heart. Symptoms exhibited will determine the medications and/or devices used to treat the condition.


Some medication include:

  • ACE Inhibitor (Captopril or Lisinopril) – dilates the blood vessels, lowers blood pressure, and eases the workload of the heart
  • ARP Blockers (Losartan) – used when ACEs are not tolerated
  • Beta-blockers (Atenolol) – reduces heart failure symptoms and improves hearts functioning
  • Diuretic (Thiazide, Lasix) – removes extra fluid from the body
  • Blood thinners (warfarin, aspirin) – prevents clotting

Implantable devices used to treat dilated cardiomyopathy include:

  • Biventricular pacemakers – coordinate the actions of the left and right ventricles.
  • Implantable cardiovascular-defibrillators (ICDs) monitors heart rhythm and deliver electrical shocks as needed for abnormal, rapid heartbeats
  • Left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) – are mechanical devices placed in the abdomen or chest and attached to the heart that help the heart pump.

When medications and treatments become ineffective surgical heart transplant offers another potential option.

Patients can take an active role in their own treatment as well by including a low sodium diet and an exercise routine. Developing a healthy lifestyle and habits can minimize or prevent the effects of dilated cardiomyopathy. These changes include:

  • stop smoking
  • avoid drinking alcohol or drink in moderation
  • avoid cocaine and other illegal drugs
  • eat a low-salt healthy diet
  • maintain a healthy weight
  • follow an exercise routine
  • enough sleep and rest

Changes help to manage with symptoms. Some activities will be limited. Driving a car or continuing to work may be okay but, driving a commercial vehicle or strenuous work activities will need to be avoided.

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