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Ischemic cardiomyopathy (IC) is a condition that occurs when the heart muscle is weakened. In this condition, the left ventricle, which is the main heart muscle, is usually enlarged and dilated. This condition can be a result of a heart attack or coronary artery disease, a narrowing of the arteries. These narrowed arteries keep blood from reaching portions of your heart. The weakened heart muscle inhibits your heart’s ability to pump blood and can lead to heart failure.
Symptoms of IC include shortness of breath, chest pain, and extreme fatigue. If you have IC symptoms, you should seek medical care immediately.
Treatment depends on how much damage has been done to your heart. Medications and surgery are often required. You can improve your long-term outlook by making certain lifestyle changes, such as maintaining a healthy diet and avoiding high-risk behaviors, including smoking.
You can have early-stage heart disease with no symptoms. As the arteries narrow further and blood flow becomes impaired, you may experience a variety of symptoms, including:
If you have these symptoms, seek emergency medical care or call 9-1-1.
Ischemic cardiomyopathy is typically caused by coronary artery disease or a previous heart attack.
Risk factors for coronary artery disease include:
Men have a higher risk of developing coronary artery disease than women, but that gap closes after women reach menopause. Women over the age of 35 who take oral contraceptives and smoke are also at an increased risk.
Your physician will probably refer you to a heart specialist (cardiologist). He or she will take your medical history and perform a physical examination. Tests to confirm the diagnosis of IC may include:
To treat IC, the underlying coronary artery disease must be addressed.
Ask your doctor for dietary recommendations. Patients with coronary artery disease are advised to maintain a healthy diet that is low in fat, cholesterol, and sodium. You will also be advised about which exercises are healthy and safe for your condition. These are not intended as short-term fixes, but as long-term lifestyle changes.
Medications are used to ease your symptoms, prevent complications, and improve heart function. Depending on your circumstances, your doctor may prescribe:
Surgical procedures for coronary artery disease may include:
In very serious cases, coronary bypass surgery is used to improve blood flow to the heart. In this surgery, a healthy vein or artery is surgically removed and placed near the blocked one. This is done in such a way so that blood will bypass the blocked artery and flow through the new one.
If damage to the heart is too great, a heart transplant may be required.
Treating the underlying cause of IC (most often coronary artery disease) is key to preventing the serious complications that untreated IC can lead to. Untreated IC can eventually lead to heart failure, blood clots, or death.
Your prognosis depends on several factors, including:
Factors that may contribute to a poorer prognosis include:
You can decrease your chances of developing heart disease in the first place by making smart lifestyle choices. Among these are:
Written by: Ann Pietrangelo
Medically reviewed by Brenda B. Spriggs, MD, MPH, FACP
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