Symptoms, including shortness of breath, fatigue, and heartbeat abnormalities, usually do not show up until cardiomyopathy is well-established. People with cardiomyopathy may feel winded or tired after any amount of exertion, or may experience a pounding heart during physical activity. In some cases, the heart is so weak that the blood that cannot be pumped forward effectively backs up in the lungs, abdomen, or hands and feet. Some patients experience heart rhythm disturbances and feel dizzy or faint. Others may have chest pains or a severe cough. When an infection is present, fever and flu-like symptoms occur.
Symptoms of Cardiomyopathy
- Chest pain
- Heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling in the hands and feet or abdomen
Lifestyle factors and existing health problems can put you at risk for cardiomyopathy. Risk is higher among smokers and people who are obese, and those with a family history of cardiomyopathy. Years of excessive alcohol intake can also increase a person’s risk for developing the problem. Anyone with a family history of cardiomyopathy should discuss safe forms of exercise with a doctor.
Gender and race can be risk factors for cardiomyopathy. While the reason is unknown, restrictive cardiomyopathy occurs more frequently in tropical and subtropical Africa.
Dilated cardiomyopathy is most common among middle-aged African-American men. African-American women over 30 years of age are at increased risk for cardiomyopathy associated with childbirth.
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