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Dilated cardiomyopathy is a serious condition that weakens your heart muscle and
causes it to stretch, or dilate. When your heart muscle is weak, it can't pump
out blood as well as it should, so more blood stays in your heart after each
heartbeat. As more blood fills and stays in the heart, the heart muscle
stretches even more and gets even weaker.
Most of the time, this
heart failure. Heart failure does not mean that your
heart stops pumping. It means that your heart can't pump enough blood to meet
your body's needs.
common type of dilated cardiomyopathy develops after a heart attack has damaged
the heart muscle. But it can also be caused by many diseases or problems that
may or may not be related to your heart. Sometimes the cause is not known.
Some of the things that can lead to dilated cardiomyopathy
You may not have any
symptoms at first. Or you may have mild symptoms, such as feeling very tired or
If your heart gets weaker, you will develop heart failure.
When this happens, you will feel other symptoms, including:
You may get these symptoms slowly, over months or years.
Or you may get them suddenly, such as after pregnancy or an illness caused by a
Heart failure that suddenly gets worse is an emergency. Get
medical help right away if:
When you have heart failure, keeping track of your symptoms every
day is important. Call your doctor if:
doctor will ask questions about your symptoms and past health. He or she will
want to know about recent illnesses and about heart disease in your family.
Your doctor will listen to your heart and lungs and check your legs for fluid
You may also have other tests, including:
In some cases, a doctor may want to look at a small
sample of heart tissue, called a biopsy, to make a definite diagnosis.
Treatment for dilated cardiomyopathy focuses on relieving your symptoms, improving heart function, and helping you live longer.
You will probably need to take several medicines to treat heart failure caused by dilated cardiomyopathy. It is very important to take your medicines exactly as your doctor tells you to and to keep taking them. If you don't, your heart failure could get worse.
Your doctor may suggest a mechanical device to help your
heart pump blood or to prevent life-threatening irregular heart rhythms. Such
devices include a
pacemaker for heart failure (also called cardiac resynchronization therapy or CRT), an
implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), or a
combination pacemaker and ICD. If your condition is very bad, a heart
transplant may be an option.
Self-care is an important part of your treatment. Self-care includes the things you can do every day to feel better, stay healthy, and avoid the hospital.
Most of the time, dilated cardiomyopathy leads to heart failure. Heart
failure usually gets worse over time, but treatment can slow the disease and
help you feel better and live longer. In more and more cases, the problem is
being found earlier, when it can be better managed.
develop other problems, including:
If a woman gets dilated cardiomyopathy from pregnancy,
she should not get pregnant again. This is true even if her heart problem gets better.
If your disease is getting worse, you may
want to think about making end-of-life decisions. It can be comforting to know
that you will get the type of care you want.
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
Learning about dilated cardiomyopathy:
Living with dilated cardiomyopathy:
Visit the American Heart Association (AHA) website for information on
physical activity, diet, and various heart-related conditions. You can search for information on heart disease and stroke, share information with friends and family, and use tools to help you make heart-healthy goals and plans. Contact the AHA to find your
nearest local or state AHA group. The AHA provides brochures and information
about support groups and community programs, including Mended Hearts, a
nationwide organization whose members visit people with heart problems and
provide information and support.
The Heart Rhythm Society provides information for
patients and the public about heart rhythm problems. The website includes a
section that focuses on patient information. This information includes causes,
prevention, tests, treatment, and patient stories about heart rhythm problems.
You can use the Find a Specialist section of the website to search for a heart
rhythm specialist practicing in your area.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
(NHLBI) information center offers information and publications about preventing
This website for older adults offers aging-related
health information. The website's senior-friendly features include large
print, simple navigation, and short, easy-to-read segments of information. A
visitor to this website can click special buttons to hear the text aloud, make
the text larger, or turn on higher contrast for easier viewing.
site was developed by the National Institute on Aging and the National
Library of Medicine, both part of the National Institutes of Health
(NIH). NIHSeniorHealth features up-to-date health information from NIH. Also,
the American Geriatrics Society provides independent review of some of the
material found on this website.
Other Works Consulted
Hare JM (2012). The dilated, restrictive, and infiltrative cardiomyopathies. In RO Bonow et al., eds., Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine, 9th ed., vol. 2, pp.1561–1581. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Hunt SA, et al. (2009). 2009 focused update
incorporated into the ACC/AHA 2005 guidelines for the diagnosis and management
of heart failure in adults.
Circulation, 119(14): e391–e479.
Mestroni L, et al. (2011). Dilated cardiomyopathies. In V Fuster et al., eds., Hurst's the Heart, 13th ed., vol. 1, pp. 821–836. New York: McGraw-Hill.
July 24, 2012
Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology & George Philippides, MD - Cardiology
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