The deterioration of the heart's ability to contract.
Cardiomyopathy (literally "heart muscle disease") is the measurable deterioration for any reason of the ability of the myocardium (the heart muscle) to contract, usually leading to heart failure. Common symptoms include dyspnea (breathlessness) and peripheral edema (swelling of the legs). Those with cardiomyopathy are often at risk of dangerous forms of irregular heart rate and sudden cardiac death.
The most common form of cardiomyopathy is dilated cardiomyopathy. Although the term "cardiomyopathy" could theoretically apply to almost any disease affecting the heart, it is usually reserved for "severe myocardial disease leading to heart failure".