Causes and Risk Factors of Cardiomyopathy

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: January 2024

Cardiomyopathy is a type of heart disease that affects the heart muscle and its ability to pump blood efficiently throughout the body. Cardiomyopathy can lead to serious symptoms and complications, like heart failure and arrhythmias. There are many types of cardiomyopathy. Some are more common than others.1

What are the causes of cardiomyopathy?

Just as there are different types of cardiomyopathy, there are different causes and risk factors for the disease.1,2

Genetic factors

One of the main causes of cardiomyopathy is a person’s genes. Changes (mutations) that occur in certain genes can make a person more likely to have certain heart muscle abnormalities. Two types of cardiomyopathy that are often caused by genetic factors are:1,2

  • Arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy

Infections

Viral infections, such as hepatitis or HIV, can sometimes damage the heart muscle. This may lead to different forms of cardiomyopathy. Infections causing cardiomyopathy are rare, as cardiomyopathy is mostly caused by heart disease.2,3

Heart inflammation

Inflammation of the heart (endocarditis, myocarditis, or pericarditis) can lead to cardiomyopathy. Inflammation can weaken the heart muscle over time, affecting its ability to pump blood.1-4

Other heart problems

Cardiomyopathy also can result from a heart attack or other heart problems that damage the heart muscle.1-4

Long-term alcohol misuse

Regular heavy drinking has been shown to increase the risk of heart disease. If you have a substance use disorder, seek help.1-4

What are the risk factors of cardiomyopathy?

Some risk factors cannot be controlled, but others can. The risk factors you cannot control are:1-4

  • Age and gender – Some types of cardiomyopathy get more common as people age. Some are more common in younger people. Men are also more prone to develop certain types of cardiomyopathy than women.
  • Genes – A family history of cardiomyopathy increases your risk. If you have a family history of heart disease, get regular heart checkups.
  • Cancer treatment – Chemotherapy and radiation treatment can put the heart under stress. If you are in cancer treatment, make sure you are getting regular heart monitoring.
  • Other medical conditions – Cardiomyopathy risk increases with conditions such as obesity, diabetes, long-term high blood pressure (hypertension), and thyroid problems.

The risk factors you can control are:1-4

  • Lifestyle habits – Unhealthy habits like poor diet, no exercise, and smoking contribute to heart disease. You can adopt a more healthy lifestyle to lower your risk.
  • Alcohol and substance misuse – Drinking alcohol excessively and using certain recreational drugs puts your heart under extra stress. Limiting or avoiding these substances can reduce your risk of developing cardiomyopathy.

Can cardiomyopathy be prevented?

Preventing cardiomyopathy involves a combination of lifestyle changes, regular medical checkups, and early treatment. Proactive steps you can take to reduce your risk include:1-4

  • Adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle – Exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet, quit smoking, and get quality sleep.
  • Having regular checkups – Getting your heart checked regularly, especially if you have a family history of or other risk factors for heart disease, can help you detect the early signs of cardiomyopathy. And early treatment can prevent the progression of the disease.
  • Managing chronic conditions – Manage conditions like high blood pressure (hypertension) and diabetes with medicine and lifestyle changes. This will help you maintain good heart health.

Protect your heart health

Cardiomyopathy is a complex heart condition. There are risk factors that can be controlled and ones that cannot. But knowing your personal risk factors can give you the knowledge you need to protect your heart health.

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