Ischemic cardiomyopathy may be a difficult concept to wrap your head around, but essentially, it’s a term used to describe patients whose heart can no longer pump blood efficiently throughout the rest of body. Ischemic cardiomyopathy often occurs as a result of narrowing blood vessels of the heart restricting vital heart muscle from oxygen-rich blood. This results in heart cells becoming damaged or dying off permanently.

What are the causes and symptoms of ischemic cardiomyopathy?

The heart is arguably one of the body’s most important organs. It pumps nearly 2,000 gallons or 7,500 liters of blood every single day. This amount of blood being circulated is absolutely necessary to adequately provide all the tissues and organs with the oxygen and nutrients needed to survive. Ischemic cardiomyopathy decreases the heart’s ability to achieve this. It often causes the left ventricle—the “work house” of the heart—to become weakened, dilated, and enlarged.

The primary cause of ischemic cardiomyopathy is coronary artery disease. This condition develops due to the build-up of a hard substance called plaque within the arteries themselves, leading to their decreased flexibility and a narrowed lumen. Coronary artery disease does not occur over night, but over a long period of time.

When the coronary arteries reach a point where blood flow is significantly restricted, it can lead to angina—a form of chest pain that causes heart attack. Ischemic cardiomyopathy is the result of such events and often leads to heart failure.

Conditions that ultimately lead to the development of ischemic cardiomyopathy include:

Family history of heart disease
High blood pressure (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

Symptoms of ischemic cardiomyopathy often include:

Extreme fatigue
Shortness of breath
Dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting
Chest pain and pressure (angina)
Heart palpitations
Swelling in your legs and feet (edema)
Swelling in your abdomen (ascites)
Cough or congestion, caused by fluid in your lungs
Difficulty sleeping
Weight gain

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