Symptoms We Treat

Cardiomyopathy (weak heart muscle)

Cardiomyopathy is a disease that causes the heart muscle to become enlarged, thick or rigid. This condition makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body. Cardiomyopathy can be caused by a number of different factors, which may produce different symptoms and require different treatments. Although it can be a serious condition that may lead to life-threatening complications, many cases of cardiomyopathy can be effectively treated to reduce symptoms and damage.

Types Of Cardiomyopathy

There are several types of cardiomyopathy which vary based on the area of the heart that they affect, the cause, and the symptoms that they produce.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Dilated cardiomyopathy is the most common type of cardiomyopathy. It involves an enlarged left ventricle and as a result, the heart weakens and is unable to pump blood to the body. Men are more likely than women to have this type of cardiomyopathy.

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the abnormal growth or thickening of the heart muscle. This condition makes it more difficult for blood to leave the heart and circulate. HCM can affect people of any age and is a common cause of sudden cardiac arrest in adolescents, especially athletes.

Restrictive Cardiomyopathy

Restrictive cardiomyopathy causes the ventricles to become stiff and rigid. It is caused by abnormal tissue, such as scar tissue, that replaces the normal heart muscle. Restrictive cardiomyopathy is more common in older adults.

Ischemic Cardiomyopathy

Ischemic cardiomyopathy is caused by a narrowing of the arteries that supply the heart with blood. As a result, walls of the heart become too thin or narrowed to pump blood effectively. Ischemic cardiomyopathy is often caused by coronary artery disease. and heart attacks.

All forms of cardiomyopathy make it harder for the heart to pump and deliver blood to the rest of the body, and without treatment, may lead to heart failure.

Cause Of Cardiomyopathy

Some cases of cardiomyopathy are inherited and others may be caused by an underlying condition or other factors. Possible causes of cardiomyopathy may include:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Heart attack
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Viral infections that travel to the heart
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Chemotherapy drugs

Excessive and long-term alcohol consumption, poor nutrition, and drug abuse may also lead to cardiomyopathy. However, in many cases, the exact cause of the cardiomyopathy is unknown.

Symptoms Of Cardiomyopathy

Some people with cardiomyopathy do not experience any symptoms at all. As cardiomyopathy progresses, symptoms may include:

  • Breathlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Swelling of legs, ankles and feet
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Dizziness
  • Irregular heartbeat

Symptoms of cardiomyopathy often worsen over time.

Diagnosis Of Cardiomyopathy

If cardiomyopathy is suspected, the individual may be referred to a cardiologist for a thorough examination. Cardiomyopathy may be diagnosed after a physical examination and a review of symptoms. Diagnostic tests may include:

  • Electrocardiogram
  • Chest X-ray
  • Echocardiogram
  • Cardiac MRI scan
  • Cardiac catheterization
  • Biopsy

Blood tests are also administered to measure kidney function, protein and iron levels, and to look for anemia or any thyroid problems.

Treatment Of Cardiomyopathy

Treatment for cardiomyopathy focuses on relieving symptoms and reducing the chance of complications. It may vary based on type of cardiomyopathy and the patient’s individual condition. Initial treatment often includes lifestyle changes and medication. Additional treatments may include:

  • Pacemaker
  • Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator
  • Septal myectomy
  • Angioplasty
  • Coronary artery bypass

In severe cases when all other treatment has been unsuccessful, a heart transplant may be necessary. Simple lifestyle changes such as maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly and avoiding alcohol, drugs, and smoking, can sometimes help prevent cardiomyopathy.

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Carotid Artery Disease

The carotid arteries in the neck carry blood from the heart to the brain. Carotid artery disease results from a build-up of plaque that hardens the artery, a condition called atherosclerosis. This blockage can narrow the artery and restrict blood flow, increasing a person’s risk of having a stroke. A piece of the blockage can also break off and lodge in the artery or in a smaller vessel.

Is my carotid artery clogged?

Carotid artery disease does not always cause symptoms. The first alert that you have a blocked carotid artery could be a stroke. However, some people do experience warning signs. These come in the form of transient ischemic attacks, or TIAs.

During a TIA, you may experience a tingling, weakness, numbness or loss of control on one side of your body; loss of vision in one eye; or a slurring of speech. These symptoms are temporary and usually disappear within an hour. Nevertheless, they should be reported to your doctor immediately. If these symptoms last more than a day, you may have had a stroke.

Carotid Surgery

Carotid surgery is performed to clear a blockage in the carotid artery and restore blood flow to the brain. Carotid surgery procedures may take the form of an endarterectomy or an angioplasty with stent placement.

What is carotid endarterectomy?
An endarterectomy surgically removes diseased material and clogged deposits from the inside of an artery to restore normal blood flow. When the procedure is performed on the carotid artery, it is called a carotid endarterectomy. By keeping blood flow open to the brain, a carotid endarterectomy helps prevent the occurrence or recurrence of stroke.

What is carotid stenting?
Carotid stenting involves the implantation of a metal mesh tube (a “stent”) to hold a clogged artery open so blood can flow through it unobstructed. The stent is put in place using a technique called balloon angioplasty. A small tube known as a catheter with a tiny balloon on the end is inserted into an artery in the groin, snaked up to the carotid artery, and gently expanded, pushing open the blockage and restoring blood flow. The stent is then put in place to ensure that the artery stays open.

Stenting is a relatively new procedure for carotid disease and is usually only recommended for patients with severe stenosis (blockage) who experience symptoms from the restricted blood flow.

Congenital Heart Disease

A congenital heart defect is a structural abnormality within the heart that can cause problems with functioning. Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect, and affect thousands of Americans each year. Most cases of heart disease found in children are the result of a congenital heart defect. Although the cause of these defects is not known for certain, it is presumed to be genetic, as several genes have been discovered that are linked to the presence of a heart defect.
Some of the most common congenital heart defects include:

  • Aortic stenosis
  • Atrial septal defect
  • Atrioventricular canal defect
  • Patent ductus arteriosus
  • Pulmonary stenosis
  • Tricuspid atresia

Most of these conditions involve narrowed heart valves that make it difficult for blood to pass through, or a hole in the heart that causes oxygen-rich and oxygen-poor blood to mix.

Many congenital heart defects do not require any treatment unless complications arise. For those that do, surgery or catheter procedures may be performed to repair the defect and relieve symptoms. These procedures vary depending on the type and severity of the child’s condition, but are usually successful. Some patients may require multiple treatments to correct their condition.

Children born with congenital heart defects often need special care throughout their lives. It is important to keep your child educated about his/her condition and to help them cope with the physical and emotional effects associated with the condition. Most children with congenital heart defects develop normally and can enjoy a high quality of life with no major complications.


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