Heart Beat: Checks recommended for relatives of people with idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy

Heart Beat

Checks recommended for relatives of people with idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy

The most common cause of heart failure is something called dilated cardiomyopathy — the weakening and enlargement of one or both of the heart's lower chambers (ventricles). As the ventricles become big and flabby, they have increasing trouble pumping enough blood to meet the body's needs.

High blood pressure, viral infections, heavy drinking, drug abuse, and dozens of other causes can lead to dilated cardiomyopathy. Most of the time, though, it can't be ascribed to a particular cause. Such cases are called idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy.

Given that the disease seems to run in families, the American Heart Association suggests that first- and second-degree relatives (parents, brothers, sisters, children, grandparents, grandchildren, uncles, aunts, nephews, and nieces) of people who have idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy, or who have died from it, be tested to see if they, too, have the disease. Research backs up that recommendation.

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