Any type of damage to the heart muscle will weaken the muscle and may lead to heart failure. Below are the most common causes of heart muscle damage (or cardiomyopathy) in the U.S.
- Atherosclerosis (coronary artery disease, CAD). In this case, the arteries tasked with supplying the heart with blood are clogged narrowed. Coronary artery disease reduces how much oxygen is supplied to the heart and weakens the heart muscle. This may cause a heart attack (called myocardial infarction, or MI) which results in the presence of scar tissue on your heart. Scar tissue does not contract like normal heart muscle, leaving your heart to pump less effectively. Heart muscle damage resulting from coronary artery disease is usually called ischemic cardiomyopathy.
- High blood pressure (hypertension). When high blood pressure is left unmaintained for a long period of time, your heart needs to work harder to pump blood. When your blood pressure is high, your heart has more resistance to pump against. In the long term, that extra work stresses your heart and can lead to heart failure. This heart muscle damage is often called hypertensive cardiomyopathy.
- Heart valve problems. Heart valves are tasked with controlling which direction your blood flows through your heart. When your heart valves are damaged, they likely fail to open and close properly, leading to a backflow of blood or a limited amount of forward flow. Congenital defects (defects present at birth) and infections like rheumatic fever can cause these problems. This is called valvular cardiomyopathy.
- Alcohol abuse. Excessive, chronic alcohol use can severely damage the heart’s muscle walls. This is called alcoholic cardiomyopathy, or alcohol-related heart failure.
- Unknown causes. Sometimes tests and examinations cannot determine the cause of your heart failure. If this is the case, your healthcare providers will likely label your condition idiopathic cardiomyopathy.