Signs Of Cardiomyopathy

September 28, 2023

Cardiomyopathy, or enlargement of the heart, is a type of heart disease that makes the heart work harder to pump blood and can lead to heart failure, blood clots, valve problems, or in severe cases, cardiac arrest and sudden death. Cardiomyopathy may be genetic or caused by other risk factors such as a history of high blood pressure, having other heart conditions, alcohol abuse, or obesity.

In some cases it may be preventable with a healthy diet, regular exercise, lowering stress, and avoiding drugs and alcohol. If individuals have one or more of these signs of cardiomyopathy, they should consult a doctor right away. If indviiduals experience shortness of breath, chest pain, or fainting spells lasting more than a few minutes, they must call 9-1-1 immediately.


The first sign of cardiomyopathy is swelling in the legs, ankles, feet, abdomen, or neck veins. Swollen extremities suggest a build-up of excess fluid, also known as edema. The symptom will get worse without treatment if it is due to heart disease. It will start with some swelling in the ankles after standing and can eventually worsen to include the feet and other parts of the body. If individuals have been experiencing pressure and enlargement in their extremities for prolonged periods, it's a good idea to call a doctor.

Shortness Of Breath

Being out of breath easily after little to no exertion is a serious warning sign of heart disease. The more severe the heart disease, the more severe breathlessness will be. Blood circulation is directly related to the circulation of oxygen in the body, so heart disease can make it feel difficult to breathe. Shortness of breath can cause other related symptoms like excessive tiredness or coughing when laying down. If simple daily tasks like taking out the trash or taking short walks make someone feel out of breath and tired, they should consider getting tested for cardiomyopathy and related heart diseases.

Abnormal Heartbeats

Having abnormal heartbeats or arrhythmia is when the heart beats unusually fast or slow for the corresponding level of exertion, or is out of rhythm. Having arrhythmia can make individuals feel discomfort, pain, a fluttering sensation, or pounding in their chest. Sometimes arrhythmia does not cause any discomfort at all, but it may feel strange. An arrhythmia isn't always caused by heart disease. Often it is caused by an electrolyte imbalance or too much caffeine or nicotine. If individuals experience abnormal heartbeats regularly, however, it could be a sign of cardiomyopathy. An enlarged heart not functioning at a normal capacity will sometimes struggle to beat at a regular rhythm.


Cardiomyopathy puts a strain on many of the body's regular functions and as a result, can cause dizziness. Many individuals feel dizzy if they stand up too quickly but this should subside fairly quickly. In some cases, it could be a side effect of certain medications. Feeling light-headed frequently and with little or no outside cause could be a sign an individual's heart is not working properly. Having blood pressure that is either too high or low might be the root of the problem, and if left untreated could put extra strain on the heart. Excessive faintness can give patients an unsettling feeling of vertigo or instability. This is a sign of heart disease no one should ever ignore.


Everyone feels fatigue at some point in the day, whether it be due to lack of sleep or overexertion. Feeling exhaustion that doesn't improve with rest or sleep, however, is a sign of cardiomyopathy. That said, it is crucial to understand fatigue is more than just sleepiness. It is a deep weariness and lack of energy that is both pervasive and bothersome. Like the other symptoms of heart disease, it is a sign blood is not circulating enough for the body to receive nourishment. While there are many reasons to feel chronic exhaustion, cardiomyopathy included, it is a good idea to consult a doctor to try to pinpoint the cause.

Chest Discomfort

Chest discomfort and pain are common symptoms of certain types of cardiomyopathies, like hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Most individuals experience pain and discomfort in their chest when they are exerting themselves or engaging in physical activities. In most cases, this symptom can be alleviated with rest. However, some individuals affected by cardiomyopathy experience chest discomfort and pain even at times when they are at rest.

Chest discomfort may also be described as an unusual sense of pressure or weight on their chest. Some describe this manifestation of cardiomyopathy as if someone is squeezing their chest cavity. Palpitations or an abnormal awareness of the beating of the heart can also cause a cardiomyopathy patient to experience discomfort in their chest.

Abdominal Bloating

Abdominal bloating describes when an individual feels like their abdomen is tight, swollen, or full. The type of abdominal bloating caused by cardiomyopathy is the result of an accumulation of fluid in the extracellular space within the peritoneal cavity. The buildup of fluid in the abdomen may be referred to as edema or ascites in the medical community. An individual affected by cardiomyopathy has a heart that does not pump blood very well.

This malfunction leads to decreased perfusion of blood in the kidneys, which are responsible for regulating the amount of fluid in the body. The kidneys react to reduced perfusion with the production of renin, which causes increased levels of aldosterone. This process causes the body to hold onto more sodium and fluids in the legs and abdomen than it would otherwise.

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure can be a symptom indicative of cardiomyopathy because certain types can be caused by hypertension. Ischemic cardiomyopathy is a failure of the heart where it cannot pump blood efficiently because the coronary arteries that supply the myocardium with blood have become narrowed or blocked. High blood pressure is a common cause and finding in coronary heart disease and atherosclerosis patients. High blood pressure can also be indicative of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy because this condition can be caused by hypertension.

An individual's heart has to work harder in conditions of high blood pressure because of the increased blood volume. This heavy workload over time can cause the heart muscles to become larger and thickened, much like the repeated exercise of a leg muscle causes it to become larger. The enlarged and thickened heart walls cause hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or the flow of blood through the heart chambers to become impaired.

Weight Gain

Weight gain is a symptom of several types of cardiomyopathy, but the most prevalent forms that cause weight gain are peripartum cardiomyopathy and dilated cardiomyopathy. Peripartum cardiomyopathy describes when the heart is unable to pump blood around the body sufficiently due to weakening from the excessive workload pregnancy puts on the heart. This type of cardiomyopathy develops in the last month of pregnancy or shortly after giving birth.

Fluid can accumulate in the body when the heart is weakened from this type of cardiomyopathy because the kidneys are unable to excrete extra sodium and fluids. Dilated cardiomyopathy is when the heart muscles become stretched out and thin. The thin heart muscles are not able to pump blood effectively, which also causes the kidneys to have a reduced ability to excrete sodium and fluid. The extra fluid retained in the body due to cardiomyopathy is what causes weight gain.


There are several reasons why nausea can develop in cardiomyopathy patients. All forms of cardiomyopathy cause a reduced amount of blood flow to the organs that make up the gastrointestinal tract. Reduced blood flow to the muscles that move food through the digestive tract can cause it to stagnate in the stomach or intestines for too long. When food moves through the digestive tract too slowly, bacteria can overgrown.

The bacterial overgrowth in the intestines causes nausea because the byproducts of bacterial breakdown of food are toxic. The decreased production of stomach acid and other digestive enzymes can also cause nausea by allowing bacterial overgrowth. Fluid retention caused by cardiomyopathy can result in nausea when excessive pressure is placed on the organs of a patient's digestive tract. Cardiomyopathy can also alter the amount of oxygen provided to certain brain tissues and cause nausea if the nausea center in the brain is affected.

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