What is ischemic cardiomyopathy?
Ischemic cardiomyopathy (IC) occurs when your heart muscle becomes weakened.
It can result from a heart attack or coronary artery disease. In coronary
artery disease, the arteries that supply blood to your heart muscle become
narrowed. This can keep blood from reaching portions of your heart muscle,
causing damage. If you develop IC, the
left ventricle in your heart will likely become enlarged, dilated, and weakened.
This inhibits your heart’s ability to pump blood, which can lead to heart
Your doctor’s prescribed treatment plan will depend on the underlying cause
of your IC, as well as how much damage your heart has sustained. A combination
of lifestyle changes, medications, surgery, or other procedures may be
recommended. Healthy lifestyle choices can help lower your risk of complications
and reduce your chances of developing IC in the first place.
are the symptoms of ischemic cardiomyopathy?
It’s possible to have early-stage heart disease with no symptoms. If blood
flow becomes impaired due to coronary artery disease, you may experience:
- extreme fatigue
- shortness of breath
- dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting
- chest pain and pressure, known as angina
- heart palpitations
- swelling in your legs and feet, known as edema
- swelling in your abdomen
- cough or congestion, caused by fluid in your lungs
- difficulty sleeping
- weight gain
If you develop these symptoms, seek medical care
What causes ischemic cardiomyopathy?
IC is typically caused by a heart attack or coronary artery disease. Risk
factors for these conditions include:
- family history of heart disease
- high blood pressure, also known as hypertension
- high cholesterol
- end-stage kidney disease
- amyloidosis, a condition in which abnormal proteins
build up in your tissues and organs
- sedentary lifestyle
- history of smoking
- alcohol or drug abuse
You’re more likely
to develop coronary artery disease if you’re a man, but after women
reach menopause the gap between the two genders tends to close. If you’re a
woman over the age of 35 who takes oral contraceptives and smokes, you’re also
at high risk.
How is ischemic cardiomyopathy diagnosed?
If your doctor suspects you have IC, expect to be refer you to a heart specialist,
also known as a cardiologist. They will take your medical history and perform a
physical examination, and likely order tests to develop their diagnosis.
For example, they may order:
- blood tests to measure the level of cholesterol and
triglycerides in your blood
- imaging tests, such as an X-ray, CT scan, or MRI to
examine your internal tissues
- an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) to record electrical
activity in your heart
- an echocardiogram to evaluate your heart function using
- a stress test or treadmill test to monitor your heart’s
activity during exercise
- cardiac catheterization including a coronary
angiography to check for narrowing of your arteries
- radionuclide studies to assess your heart’s pumping
- myocardial biopsy to collect and analyze a small tissue
sample from your heart muscle
How is ischemic cardiomyopathy treated?
Your doctor must first address the underlying cause of your IC in order to
treat it. Most often the culprit is coronary artery disease. Doctors may
recommend a combination of:
- lifestyle changes
- surgery or other procedures
To help treat coronary artery disease and lower your risk of complications,
eat a healthy diet that’s low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. You’ll
also be advised to exercise in a way that is safe for your condition. If you
smoke your doctor will probably advise you to quit. Avoiding drugs and drinking
less alcohol is also likely in order. Don’t approach these lifestyle changes as
short-term fixes. Rather, commit to developing long-term healthy habits.
Your doctor may prescribe medications to help ease symptoms, prevent
complications, and improve your heart function. Depending on your
circumstances, they may prescribe:
- beta-blockers to reduce your blood pressure and heart
- calcium channel blockers to relax and widen your
arteries and lower your blood pressure
- aldosterone inhibitors to lower your blood pressure,
and rid your body of excess fluid to help ease symptoms such as swelling
and shortness of breath
- diuretics to rid your body of excess fluid, lower your
blood pressure, and reduce the amount of work your heart muscle has to do
- medications to control your heart rate and rhythm
- blood thinners
Surgery and other procedures
Your doctor may also recommend surgery or other procedures. For example,
they may recommend:
- implantation of a pacemaker, defibrillator, or both to
normalize your heart rate
- atherectomy to remove plaque from your arteries
- angioplasty to open narrowed arteries
- insertion of a stent, a device designed to hold
- radiation therapy to keep your arteries clear after
In very serious cases, your doctor may recommend coronary bypass surgery.. During
this surgery, your surgeon will remove a portion of healthy blood vessel from
another part of your body and reattach it near your blocked coronary artery.
This allows blood to bypass the blocked artery, flowing through the new blood
If the damage to your heart is too great to repair, you may need a heart
is the outlook for ischemic cardiomyopathy?
If left untreated, IC can lead to blood clots, heart failure, and even
death. It’s critical to treat the underlying cause of your IC to prevent
Your long-term outlook will depend on several factors, including:
- how much damage your heart has sustained
- the effectiveness of your treatment
- your lifestyle choices
You’re more likely to develop complications if you:
- make high-risk lifestyle choices, such as smoking or
- fail to take your medications properly
- don’t seek appropriate follow-up care
- develop an infection
- have other health conditions
Ask your doctor for more information
about your condition, treatment plan, and outlook.
Can ischemic cardiomyopathy be prevented?
You can decrease your chances of developing heart disease in the first place
by making smart lifestyle choices. For example:
- monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- eat a healthy diet that’s low in saturated fat, cholesterol,
- exercise at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise five times
- maintain a healthy weight
- don’t smoke or abuse drugs
By practicing heart-healthy
habits, you can lower your risk of developing coronary artery disease, ischemic
cardiomyopathy, and other cardiovascular conditions. If you’ve already
developed heart disease, healthy lifestyle choices can help mitigate complications.