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What is Nonischemic Cardiomyopathy?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Nonischemic cardiomyopathy is damage to the heart muscle that is not associated with interruptions to the heart's blood supply, as seen in cases of coronary artery disease. In ischemic cardiomyopathy, the heart muscle is damaged as a result of oxygen deprivation caused by restricted bloodflow, while in nonischemic cases, the patient has another medical issue leading to injuries to the heart. Over time, the damage puts strain on the heart and exposes the patient to other complications, like heart failure.

One of the most common forms is a condition called dilated cardiomyopathy, where the largest chamber in the heart becomes distended, causing the heart to pump less efficiently. The heart has to work harder to circulate the blood, putting significant strain on the muscle. The patient may struggle while exercising and when under stress, and can develop difficulty breathing and physical weakness because the heart is not working right.

Patients can also develop restrictive cardiomyopathy, where the walls of the heart stiffen and do not work as well, or hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, involving a thickening of the heart walls. The fibrous, thickened tissue is less flexible and does not function as well as a healthy heart. Another condition, called arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia, is an inherited condition associated with damage to the right ventricle of the heart.

In a patient with nonischemic cardiomyopathy, the heart will have to work harder to function over time. The condition may be identified during a routine examination when a medical professional listens to the heart and takes note of any unusual symptoms a patient may be experiencing, and patients can also be diagnosed when they come in specifically complaining of heart problems. Medical imaging studies, along with electrocardiograms, can be used to collect information about the nature and extent of the damage.

A cardiologist is usually involved in the diagnosis and treatment of a patient with nonischemic cardiomyopathy. The condition is not reversible, but it may be possible to take medications, eliminate contributing factors like diet, or use a pacemaking device to regulate the heartbeat. Some patients may progress to the point where a transplant with a healthy heart is the only available treatment, especially since cardiomyopathies are often diagnosed late, when they are much harder to treat effectively. People can increase their chances of a successful treatment outcome with heart disease by seeking treatment as soon as they start to experience symptoms like labored breathing, changes in heart rate, or fatigue.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon992405 — On Sep 06, 2015

I have non ischemic cardiomyopathy, at the age of 41. A virus caused it. I had a defibrillator placed in 2012 at the age of 42. At 44 my heart stopped. Thank goodness for the ICD. Now I am 45 and I spend more time at the cardiologist than I do enjoying what I can do. Heart disease doesn't have to be inherited, nor does it care what age you are. I have always been very active, eat a great diet, stayed the same weight of 110 since ninth grade, it's scary as heck. One minute you're enjoying life and the next you're unable to do what you once were able to do.

By anon337643 — On Jun 07, 2013

I just lost my husband because of this. He suffered a long time and I had to let him go because he asked that of me. He did not take good care of himself but towards the end he tried. I think he knew he was dying.

By anon324395 — On Mar 10, 2013

How long can a person live with nonischemic cardiomyopathy?

By sunshined — On Feb 11, 2012

Is something like nonischemic cardiomyopathy preventable?

I know that a lot of heart disease is preventable by diet and exercise. If someone knows they have a history of heart disease in their family, there is a lot they can do to prevent this in their own life.

There are other types of heart problems that are not preventable like this. If someone inherited a heart condition or had a congenital heart problem, there is nothing they could have done to prevent it.

By andee — On Feb 10, 2012

@julies - My dad knows what it is like to spend a lot of time at the cardiologist. He has had a heart transplant because of severe cardiomyopathy symptoms.

It has been a few years since the transplant and overall he is doing well. He will never be able to physically do what he wants to, but has found ways to stay productive and active.

Through all of this he has become very familiar with the signs of heart failure. It is something that you just learn to live with as you learn to become thankful for each new day you are given.

We are continually thankful for all the medical advances that have been made in this area. I know they have given more years to a lot of people.

By julies — On Feb 10, 2012

We lost my grandma to congestive heart disease, and as she got older she was able to do less and less.

Her mind was sharp and active, so it was very frustrating to her that she was so limited by what she could do physically.

Some of the first symptoms she had were being out of breath and her ankles swelling. Even after years of taking medications you could tell if she was having a bad day by how swollen her feet were.

Through the years she spent a lot of time at her cardiologist's office. I think they were able to extend her life for many years and gave her a quality of life she would not have had years ago.

By bagley79 — On Feb 09, 2012

My husband was having a routine physical when they noticed some problems with his heart. Heart disease does not run in his family, so we were both surprised by this.

After several tests, we found out this was something he was born with, but because it was so slight it was never noticed when he was younger.

Hearing that you have a heart problem is scary, but we are thankful there are treatments available to him. Right now this is being controlled with medication.

If he isn't able to control this with medication, he may have to have a pacemaker. We just take one day at a time and are glad they found this heart condition when they did.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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