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EXPLAINER: What is cardiomyopathy, and how can it be prevented?

By Brooke Villanueva Published Feb 15, 2024 4:57 pm

Kris Aquino asked for prayers as she revealed she now has cardiomyopathy (CM), which she said could make her suffer cardiac arrest if the inflammation in her heart persists.

The "Queen of All Media," who is currently battling five autoimmune diseases, gave a health update in a Zoom interview with "King of Talk" Boy Abunda on Wednesday, Feb. 14, saying that her condition has started affecting her heart.

Detailing her cardiomyopathy diagnosis in an Instagram post after her virtual guesting, she said, "This means my heart muscles are having trouble pumping blood due to inflammation, and because of that inflammation, it’s exhausting my heart and causing it to begin to fail."

"Please pray with me," she continued. "Sana hindi tuluyang sumuko or magcardiac arrest."

Cardiomyopathy: What it is, types, causes, and symptoms

Cardiomyopathy refers to "a group of diseases of the heart muscle, which can result in the abnormality of the heart to contract, to relax, or even both," cardiologist Paolo Villanueva told PhilSTAR L!fe.

According to Dr. Prancyne Quiohilag-Uy, who also specializes in cardiology, the three most common types of cardiomyopathy include dilated, restrictive, and hypertrophic.

Quiohilag-Uy said dilated CM is "characterized by an enlarged left ventricle with an inability of the heart muscles to contract adequately resulting in an inability to eject blood properly," while restrictive CM is "secondary to other acquired or genetic diseases and is diagnosed by endomyocardial biopsy, presenting as a filling defect of the heart."

Hypertrophic CM, meanwhile, is a "primary of disorder of the myocardium with the presence of unexplained increased left ventricular wall thickness in the absence of an obvious cause, and is usually a diagnosis of exclusion."

Villanueva said that the heart condition can be caused by congenital or inborn diseases as well as "acquired" ones including excessive alcohol intake. "Some drug side effects, infections such as bacterial or viral causes, or obstructive coronary artery disease can also lead to this," he said. "It can even be caused by severe acute stress."

Cardiologists Paolo Villanueva and Prancyne Quiohilag-Uy said having too much alcohol can cause cardiomyopathy.

Villanueva added that the predominant symptoms of cardiomyopathy are fatigue, shortness of breath, chest heaviness, swelling of the feet, a feeling of drowning when lying completely flat, and waking up in the middle of the night feeling short of breath.

Quiohilag-Uy, however, noted that its symptoms "may be asymptomatic" and that there are times when it "is only diagnosed postmortem after developing sudden cardiac death."

How can cardiomyopathy be managed?

According to Quiohilag-Uy, the management of cardiomyopathy will depend on the type of cardiomyopathy being treated. "Patients with dilated CM are treated similar to that of a patient with heart failure, which are limiting of oral fluid and salt intake to reduce water retention, and giving of diuretics," she told L!fe. "For hypertrophic CM, risk stratification for developing sudden cardiac death is a must for prompt placement of implantable cardioverter-defibrillator."

Villanueva said that most cases of cardiomyopathy can be managed medically, adding that "some patients can live without severely debilitating symptoms."

"General treatment includes medications to reduce the fluid accumulation in the body, or to improve the contractility of the heart, or to dilate the arteries or bring down the blood pressure to reduce the resistance against which the heart needs to pump against," he shared.

"Some patients, however, may need to undergo surgery if the heart valves are involved, if medical management is ineffective, or if it has evidence to improve prognosis or outcomes," continued Villanueva.

How can one reduce their risk of cardiomyopathy?

Since some less common types of cardiomyopathy may be due to excessive alcohol intake, diabetes, stress, or is secondary to iron overload, Quiohilag-Uy said that "knowing the modifiable causes of CM and avoiding them can help prevent its development."

"Living a healthy lifestyle, controlling cardiac risk factors such as hypertension and diabetes, and avoiding substance abuse can go a long way in preventing acquired causes of cardiomyopathy," Villanueva added.