Cardiomyopathy is a deformation of the heart muscle. Walls of the heart become enlarged, inflamed, or brittle, limiting their ability to pump blood effectively. Its cause isn’t always known, but in some patients, doctors can clearly trace the condition to an external cause. Here, Myocarditis Foundation offers a brief overview of common cardiomyopathy causes to be aware of.

Cardiac Conditions

In many cases, cardiomyopathy stems from a previous heart condition. Cardiac arrest and other heart diseases can damage the heart tissues, leaving behind scars and weak points. This damage renders the muscle weakened and vulnerable to stretching or swelling. Cardiomyopathy may also be related to existing cardiac conditions, such as:

  • Valve problems
  • Long-term high blood pressure
  • Chronic rapid heart rate
  • And more.

Diseases and Infections

Cardiomyopathy may also be related to some other infection or illness that does not originate in the heart. This is especially true of conditions that cause damage or build-up in the heart muscle – even if they aren’t specifically a heart disease. Here are a few conditions that are commonly connected to cases of cardiomyopathy:

  • Connective tissue diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus
  • Endocrine disease, including diabetes and thyroid conditions
  • Cholesterol-related coronary heart disease
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Viral infections

Chemotherapy and Other Cancer Treatments

Another significant cause is chemotherapy and other cancer treatments, which are intense and involve radiation, cell-killing drugs, and similar methods. While they do kill cancer, they may also cause collateral damage to the patient’s otherwise-healthy body, including the heart.

In many cases, cardiomyopathy from chemotherapy will disappear when the treatment is complete, as the patient’s body repairs and rebuilds healthy heart tissue as it recovers from the harsh drugs. This isn’t true of everyone, however, so all treatment-related cardiomyopathy should be monitored closely.

Lifestyle Factors

For some patients, cardiomyopathy isn’t related to another condition or treatment at all. Many cases instead are connected to certain factors in the patient’s lifestyle. These include:

  • Long-term alcoholism
  • Illegal drug use or anabolic steroid abuse
  • Nutritional deficiencies, especially thiamin (vitamin B-1)
  • Diets high in cholesterol

Keeping these factors to a minimum is essential – especially for people already at risk (i.e. chemotherapy patients or those with a history of other heart problems). By living in a healthy manner, patients can minimize their risk of developing cardiomyopathy both now and into the future.

Family History

Finally, cardiomyopathy often runs in the family. This is true of many heart conditions. Experts aren’t completely sure why they are most common in related individuals. It can affect certain family members more than others, with some experiencing intense symptoms and others being entirely unaffected.

Luckily, cardiomyopathy can be tested for. If you have any close family members who’ve had the condition, ask your doctor for a genetic test to determine whether you might be at risk. Knowing can help you plan ahead and avoid other factors that may contribute to your risk of heart disease.

Learn More with Myocarditis Foundation

Medical experts are constantly learning more about cardiomyopathy causes, leading to better treatments and disease prevention. Myocarditis Foundation is committed to supporting their efforts. We contribute to research efforts, spread awareness of cardiomyopathy, and educate patients and their families. Contact us to learn more about how you can get involved in our mission.

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