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What Causes Cardiomyopathy?

Cardiomyopathy can be acquired or inherited. "Acquired" means you aren't born with the disease, but you develop it due to another disease, condition, or factor.

"Inherited" means your parents passed the gene for the disease on to you. Researchers continue to look for the genetic links to cardiomyopathy. They also continue to explore how these links cause or contribute to the various types of the disease.

Many times, the cause of cardiomyopathy isn't known. This often is the case when the disease occurs in children.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy

The cause of dilated cardiomyopathy often isn't known. As many as one-third of the people who have dilated cardiomyopathy inherit it from their parents.

Certain diseases, conditions, and substances also can cause the disease, such as:

  • Coronary heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid disease, viral hepatitis, and HIV
  • Infections, especially viral infections that inflame the heart muscle
  • Alcohol, especially if you also have a poor diet
  • Complications during the last month of pregnancy or within 5 months of birth
  • Certain toxins, such as cobalt
  • Certain drugs (such as cocaine and amphetamines) and two medicines used to treat cancer (doxorubicin and daunorubicin)

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) usually is inherited. It's caused by a mutation (change) in some of the genes in heart muscle proteins. HCM also can develop over time because of high blood pressure or aging.

Other diseases, such as diabetes or thyroid disease, also can cause HCM. Sometimes the cause of the disease isn't known.

Restrictive Cardiomyopathy

Certain diseases, conditions, and factors can cause restrictive cardiomyopathy, including:

  • Hemochromatosis (HE-mo-kro-mah-TOE-sis). This is a disease in which too much iron builds up in your body. The extra iron is toxic to the body and can damage the organs, including the heart.
  • Sarcoidosis (sar-koy-DOE-sis). This disease causes inflammation and can affect various organs in the body. Researchers believe that an abnormal immune response may cause sarcoidosis. This abnormal response causes tiny lumps of cells to form in the body's organs, including the heart.
  • Amyloidosis (AM-eh-loy-DOE-sis). This is a disease in which abnormal proteins build up in the body's organs, including the heart.
  • Connective tissue disorders.
  • Some cancer treatments, such as radiation and chemotherapy.

Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia

Researchers think that arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia is an inherited disease.

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Cardiomyopathy Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies that explore whether a medical strategy, treatment, or device is safe and effective for humans. To find clinical trials that are currently underway for Cardiomyopathy, visit www.clinicaltrials.gov.


Cardiomyopathy in the News

September 3, 2013
Risk factors identified at diagnosis help predict outcomes for children with rare heart condition
A long-term study of children with a complex heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) found that risk factors identified at diagnosis help to predict outcomes for children with this rare condition.

View all Cardiomyopathy Press Releases


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January 01, 2011 Last Updated Icon

The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.