HEALTHY LIVING
07/09/2013 11:29 am ET Updated Jul 28, 2014

Viral Cardiomyopathy: Randy Travis's Heart Condition, Explained

Randy Travis, Grammy-winning country music artist, has viral cardiomyopathy, a heart condition that left him hospitalized in critical condition Monday night, according to news reports.

He was admitted to a Texas hospital on Sunday with complications from the "recently acquired" condition, HuffPost Celeb reported.

According to the Mayo Clinic, cardiomyopathy is a disease that weakens and enlarges the heart, making it hard for the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body. In some cases, it can lead to heart failure.

Typically, cardiomyopathy occurs slowly with few noticeable symptoms, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, but not in the case of a viral infection like Travis's.

"Viral cardiomyopathy can be caused by 30-plus different viruses, but it's almost impossible to pinpoint which virus it is," cardiologist Dr. Ramin Oskoui told CNN. "Hospitals use viral cardiomyopathy as a 'catch all' diagnosis."

While cardiomyopathy itself is relatively rare, according to Johns Hopkins, a viral infection in the heart is not. "Viral infection of the heart is relatively common, usually asymptomatic and has a spontaneous and complete resolution," German researchers wrote in a 2003 study. In rare cases, a viral infection leads to viral cardiomyopathy, meaning the effects of the virus persist, according to the study. In other instances, the viral infection can cause inflammation and is then referred to as inflammatory viral cardiomyopathy.

Travis has a family history of heart problems, according to his sister-in-law Teresa Traywick. "Their mother passed away at an early age with her heart, so it is like these boys are following right in their footsteps," Traywick told People.

Other than inheriting heart problems or contracting a virus, cardiomyopathy can be caused by high blood pressure, diabetes, nutritional deficiencies, excess alcohol consumption over many years, abuse of some medications and heart valve problems or tissue damage, according to the Mayo Clinic. Johns Hopkins recommends approaching cardiomyopathy prevention as with any heart-related issue: eat a heart-healthy diet, get regular exercise, don't smoke, limit alcohol and lose weight if you need to.

Travis was sentenced with probation and required to spend time at an alcohol treatment facility after pleading guilty to driving while intoxicated in January, the AP reported. "To say that Mr. Travis's alcohol use exacerbated his problems would be pure speculation, but if someone told me alcohol played a role in his cardiac problems, I wouldn't be surprised," Oskoui told CNN.

Treatment varies depending on the type of cardiomyopathy diagnosed. Doctors will recommend "medications, surgically implanted devices or a combination of both," according to the Mayo Clinic.

In some cases, like that of 9-year-old Lindsey Bingham, a heart transplant is required. Bingham was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, which enlarged her heart, and received a transplant in February.

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