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Cardiomyopathy Overview

Cardiomyopathy (cardio=heart +myo=muscle + pathy=disease/abnormality) is diseased heart muscle that cannot function (contract) adequately. Cardiomyopathy results in the failure of the heart muscle to meet the needs of the body for oxygen rich blood and removal of carbon dioxide and other waste products. There are many causes of cardiomyopathy, but the end result is a heart that is weak and cannot maintain a normal ejection fraction or cardiac output.

Heart Function Overview

The heart is an electrically-innervated, muscular pump that pushes blood throughout the body through blood vessels. A specialized group of cells located in the upper chamber (atrium) of the heart, acts as a pacemaker that generates an electrical impulse. This impulse begins a sequential electrical stimulation of heart muscle that then contracts in a coordinated way. Accordingly, first the upper chamber of the heart is stimulated to contract and send blood into the lower chambers (ventricles) of the heart. There is a slight delay in the electrical signal that allows the ventricles to fill. Then the ventricles contract pumping blood throughout the body. Another slight delay then occurs, allowing blood to return to the upper chambers of the heart, refilling the heart for the next cycle.

Cardiac output is a measurement of heart function that measures the amount of blood that the heart pumps in a specific period of time.

  • The stroke volume is the amount of blood that the heart pumps with one contraction.
  • The stroke volume multiplied by the number of heart beats per minute is the cardiac output.
  • Normally, the adult heart pumps about 5 liters of blood through the blood vessels of the body every minute.

The ejection fraction is a measurement of the heart's effectiveness in pumping blood. It is the percentage of blood in a filled ventricle that is pumped out of the heart with each contraction. A normal heart will have an ejection fraction of 60%-70%. This number can decrease if the heart muscle cannot squeeze or contract adequately.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/30/2015

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Cardiomopathy & Heart Disease

Ask your doctor about the heart truth

Know the risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, being overweight, or being physically inactive, age (55 or older for women), and family history. Talk to your doctor. Find out your risk. And take action to lower it.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

  1. What is my risk for heart disease?
  2. What screening or diagnostic tests for heart disease do I need?
  3. What can you do to help me quit smoking?
  4. How much physical activity do I need to help protect my heart?
  5. What is a heart-healthy eating plan for me?
  6. What are my numbers and what do they mean?
    • Blood pressure
    • Cholesterol?total cholesterol, LDL ("bad") cholesterol, HDL ("good") cholesterol, and triglycerides
    • Body mass index and waist circumference measurement
    • Blood sugar level (could indicate risk for diabetes)

SOURCE: The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute "The Heart Truth for Women."

Atrial Fibrillation Slideshow

Medical Dictionary