Saturday 18 November 2017

Explainer: George Michael's death - what is dilated cardiomyopathy?

Singer George Michael (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Singer George Michael (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Jane Kirby

Singer George Michael died from problems with his heart and also suffered a build-up of fat in his liver.

What is dilated cardiomyopathy?

Dilated cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle. The left ventricle of the heart becomes stretched, thin and weaker, which affects how blood is able to pump around the body.

In some cases, it is an inherited condition - people who have the inherited form have a 50% chance of passing it on to their children.

Otherwise, it is caused by things such as viral infections, uncontrolled high blood pressure and problems with the heart valves.

A lack of vitamins and minerals in the diet, heavy drinking and recreational drug use can also lead to the condition.

Due to the heart not pumping effectively, fluid can build up in the lungs, ankles, abdomen and other organs of the body - causing heart failure.

What are the symptoms?

Most symptoms come on slowly but include shortness of breath, swelling of the ankles and stomach and excessive tiredness.

Myocarditis is inflammation in or around the heart and is usually caused by a viral, bacterial or fungal infection.

Symptoms include pain or tightness in the chest which can spread to other parts of the body.

Other symptoms are shortness of breath and tiredness.

Myocarditis is potentially fatal, although it sometimes exhibits no symptoms at all.

It is notoriously hard to detect and can lead to heart failure in severe cases.

People can sometimes have a high temperature, suffer headaches and have aching muscles and joints.

What is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease?

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is caused by a build-up of fat in the liver and is usually seen in people who are overweight or obese.

Around one in three people in the UK are thought to be in the early stages of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

While it usually causes no harm, it can lead to serious liver damage and increases the risk of diabetes, heart attacks and strokes.

A different type of fatty liver disease is caused by excessive drinking and is known as alcoholic fatty liver disease.

This type of liver disease can be reversible if people stop drinking.

Is there a cure for dilated cardiomyopathy?

According to the British Heart Foundation, there is no cure for dilated cardiomyopathy.

Some people develop other conditions as a result of it, including abnormal heart rhythms, blood clots or chest pain.

Andrew Langford, chief executive of the British Liver Trust, said: "We are saddened to hear that a fatty liver may have contributed to George Michael's untimely death.

"Many people in the UK are unaware of this type of liver disease.

"More than one in five of us are at risk and unfortunately many people don't realise that being overweight is a major risk factor.

"It's important that all of us are aware of the risk factors of liver disease, the importance of eating a nutritious balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight and not drinking too much alcohol."

Press Association

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