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Types of Cardiomyopathy & Heart Failure

NYU Langone heart specialists are familiar with all types of cardiomyopathy, which means “sickness of the heart muscle.” This condition changes the shape and function of the heart. It reduces the heart’s ability to pump blood and can cause heart arrhythmias, in which the heart beats too slowly or quickly.

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Heart failure occurs when conditions such as cardiomyopathy, heart valve disease, or congenital heart disease damage the heart, reducing its ability to pump blood to the body.

Despite its name, heart failure isn’t a complete loss of heart function, as occurs in sudden cardiac arrest, when the heart suddenly stops beating. Heart failure means the organ isn’t pumping blood to the rest of the body as well as it should. This is a serious and progressive condition—yet manageable.

Doctors use a test called an echocardiogram to determine the percentage of blood the heart pumps with each contraction. This is called ejection fraction. A normal heart’s ejection fraction is typically between 55 percent and 70 percent. The ejection fraction number is used to describe different types of heart failure or cardiomyopathy.

Heart Failure with Reduced Ejection Fraction

Also called systolic heart failure, heart failure with reduced ejection fraction is the most common type of heart failure. It occurs when the left ventricle, the heart’s main pumping chamber, weakens and can’t pump blood effectively. This condition is also often called dilated cardiomyopathy.

Although people of all ages can develop this type of heart failure, it occurs most frequently in people who are middle-aged and older. The most common cause is a previous heart attack.

Other causes include high blood pressure, heart inflammation due to an infection, the use of certain chemotherapy drugs, and excessive alcohol intake. Heart failure with reduced ejection fraction may also run in families. Sometimes the cause cannot be identified.

Heart Failure with Preserved Ejection Fraction

In this condition, which is also called diastolic heart failure, the heart doesn’t relax properly, reducing the efficiency of the circulation of blood.

This type of heart failure mainly occurs in people older than age 65. It’s usually caused by underlying conditions, such as hypertension or diabetes. Heart disease caused by these conditions may lead to a thickening of the heart’s walls.

Less commonly, heart failure with preserved ejection fraction is genetic, or inherited. This is known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and it can affect people of all ages.

Heart failure with preserved ejection fraction may also be caused by restrictive cardiomyopathy. This occurs when the heart muscle or other parts of the heart become too rigid to relax, making it difficult for blood to fill these areas.

Heart failure with preserved ejection fraction occurs less commonly than dilated cardiomyopathy and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. It can be caused by cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy or chest radiation. It may also be related to blood or liver diseases that produce abnormal proteins that harm the heart.

Our Research and Education in Cardiomyopathy and Heart Failure

Learn more about our research and professional education opportunities.