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Alcoholic cardiomyopathy is a form of heart disease caused by long-term alcohol abuse.
Over time, alcohol weakens your heart muscle. It can stretch your heart, making it bigger and weaker. This means it can't pump blood as efficiently and reduces oxygen throughout your body.
Men between 35 and 50 are most at risk of developing alcoholic cardiomyopathy. Women can also develop this form of heart disease, but it is less common.
Most people who develop alcoholic cardiomyopathy have a history (five to 15 years) of heavy drinking.
Heavy drinking is defined as:
The main cause of alcohol cardiomyopathy is chronic alcohol abuse. Alcohol dependence often forms due to chronic alcohol abuse.
Alcohol abuse and dependency are both considered alcohol use disorder (AUD).
Dependence is characterized by uncontrollable drinking patterns and a strong urge to drink alcohol. This stage of alcohol misuse is when tolerance develops and serious withdrawal symptoms can occur.
Alcohol has a toxic effect on many of your organs, such as the liver and heart.
Long-term alcohol abuse can damage your heart muscle over time. This makes it difficult for your heart to pump blood properly, causing it to enlarge and thin out.
Alcoholic cardiomyopathy is diagnosed when the heart muscle and surrounding blood vessels stop functioning correctly.
The symptoms of alcoholic cardiomyopathy appear differently for everyone. Some people don't have any symptoms during early stages. Others may develop severe symptoms.
The primary indicators of advanced alcoholic cardiomyopathy include:
If alcoholic cardiomyopathy is left untreated or becomes advanced, heart failure can occur.
Heart failure happens when the heart muscle becomes too weak and stops pumping blood normally.
Other risk factors associated with advanced alcoholic cardiomyopathy include:
The outlook for someone with alcoholic cardiomyopathy depends on:
If the heart is severely damaged, the chances of a full recovery are low. If the disease is caught early, stopping alcohol use completely and taking certain medications can help restore the heart’s function.
To diagnose alcoholic cardiomyopathy, there are a few types of imaging tests that may take place.
After the diagnosis, treatment is next.
Alcoholic cardiomyopathy treatment may include medications, surgery, or a combination.
Depending on the severity of the condition, your doctor may suggest:
Up to 42 percent of people who keep drinking alcohol after being diagnosed with alcoholic cardiomyopathy will likely die within three years.
However, the disease may be reversible if the individual stops drinking alcohol altogether.
Within just six months of stopping alcohol use, the patient may notice an improvement in their heart function and overall health. Within 18 months of abstinence, a complete recovery is likely to occur.
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