Types of Cardiomyopathy in Men

Know Your Risk

Human cardiovascular system

Cardiomyopathy is an enlarging, thickening or stiffening of the heart muscle that affects more men than women. There are four types of cardiomyopathy, and it can be difficult to understand the difference, especially if you've just gotten a diagnosis. Here's what to know about the types of cardiomyopathy, including symptoms and causes.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Dilated cardiomyopathy, when one or more of the heart chambers become enlarged (dilated), is most common among middle-aged men.

The muscular walls of the heart become stretched, causing the heart to become larger and the heart muscle weaker. The ability of the heart chambers to pump blood is diminished and less forceful. In most cases, the cause is unknown, but one in five cases of dilated cardiomyopathy are thought to have been inherited.

Signs and Symptoms of Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Some people do not experience any symptoms until their cardiomyopathy is well advanced. Usual signs and symptoms of dilated cardiomyopathy include tiredness, shortness of breath, swollen ankles and abdomen, heart palpitations and dizziness and fainting during physical activity. These may occur with or without exercise. Signs and symptoms tend to progress over time unless the condition is treated.

Although the causes of many cases of dilated cardiomyopathy are unknown there are causes and contributory factors. These include:

  • A viral or other infection of the heart
  • Heart tissue damage from a previous heart attack
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart valve problems
  • Chronic rapid heart rate
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Metabolic disorders, such as thyroid disease or diabetes
  • Vitamins and minerals deficiencies, such as thiamin (vitamin B-1), selenium, calcium, and magnesium
  • Use of some chemotherapeutic drugs to treat cancer

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, when the muscular walls of the heart become thickened, occurs most often in people between 20 and 40 years of age. Thickening of the heart walls prevents the heart from filling up with blood properly and blocks the blood from being pumped from the heart. About half of the people with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy have a family history of the disease.

Signs and Symptoms of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

Shortness of breath, chest pains, and palpitations are all signs of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Signs and symptoms tend to progress over time unless treated and those affected may often faint. Sadly, sudden death is sometimes the first indication that someone had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Keep yourself safe by talking to your doctor at the first sign of discomfort, and find out your risk if you have a family history.

Restrictive Cardiomyopathy

Restrictive cardiomyopathy, a stiffening of the heart muscles so that it is less elastic, is a rare form of the disease. The stiffening interferes with the heart 's ability to expand and fill the ventricles with blood. Restrictive cardiomyopathy can occur at any age but is more common in older people.

The causes are mostly unknown, but restrictive cardiomyopathy may result from abnormal proteins or cell products being deposited in the heart. The condition is most common in tropical countries, where it's often due to scarring (fibrosis) of the heart muscle, but experts aren't sure why it's more common in those parts of the world.

Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia

Another very rare type of cardiomyopathy, arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (ARVD), is thought to be genetic. ARVD results in muscle tissue in the right ventricle being replaced by fat, triggering abnormal heart rhythms.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Cardiomyopathy

Cardiomyopathy is diagnosed by a physical examination by a doctor, or with an electrocardiogram, chest X-ray or echocardiogram. Treatment to manage the symptoms, prevent progression of the illness and reduce the risk of complication usually begins right away.

Medications such as ACE inhibitors, statins, diuretics and beta blockers can help the heart work better and heart pacemakers are used for some people to coordinate the contractions between the left and right ventricle. Sometimes a device called an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) is used to monitor the heartbeat and deliver a precise shock to the heart when required.

In advanced cases of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a surgeon may remove a portion of the thickened muscle wall (called septal myotomy-myomectomy) to improve or restore a normal blood flow. And in the most serious cases, a heart transplant may be an option.