Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy

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Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy

Topic Overview

Alcoholic cardiomyopathy is caused by long-term alcohol abuse. The heart muscle is weakened and cannot pump blood efficiently, leading to heart failure.

Symptoms are the result of heart failure and include fatigue, shortness of breath, swelling, and cough. Muscular weakness may also be present because of the effect of alcohol on muscles (alcoholic myopathy).

Hospitalization may be required if there is alcohol dependency. Quitting drinking often results in improved heart function. Continued alcohol consumption, on the other hand, will continue to make heart failure worse. Treatment also often includes standard treatment for heart failure, such as lifestyle changes and medicines.

Alcohol in excessive quantities has a directly toxic effect on heart muscle cells. Also, people who abuse alcohol often have poor diets and vitamin deficiencies that in turn damage the heart.

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Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Andrew Swan, MD, CCFP, FCFP - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer George Philippides, MD - Cardiology
Last Revised October 4, 2010

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