As many as 1 in 500 adults may have cardiomyopathy – and not know it.

Cardiomyopathy is a disease that damages the heart muscle, causing it to become enlarged, thickened or, in rarer instances, replaced with scar tissue. In this weakened state, the heart struggles to pump blood and maintain normal electrical rhythm, which leads to a range of conditions, including irregular heart rhythms and heart failure. Cardiomyopathy is one of the most common conditions leading to heart transplantation. Because it often goes unrecognized and untreated, cardiomyopathy is a dangerous condition. And unlike many other types of heart problems, it frequently affects younger people.

Some people live long, healthy lives with cardiomyopathy. In others, serious complications can emerge.

There are four main types of cardiomyopathy, which may be genetically inherited, brought on by other cardiac conditions or substance abuse, or result from unknown causes. Dilated cardiomyopathy leads to weakening of the walls of the heart. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy causes a thickening of the heart’s walls. Restrictive cardiomyopathy is a rare problem which restricts the heart from expanding properly. Ischemic cardiomyopathy is caused by damage to the heart muscle from blocked coronary arteries.

Symptoms may include:
• Shortness of breath
• Fatigue
• Breathing difficulty when lying flat
• Swelling in the legs, ankles and feet
• Abdominal bloating
• Chest pain
• Irregular heartbeats (rapid beating, pounding or fluttering feeling)
• Dizziness/lightheadedness and fainting

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