George Michael's death: What is dilated cardiomyopathy and fatty liver?

George Michael's death: What is dilated cardiomyopathy and fatty liver?
PHOTO: Reuters

It hits closer to home when someone famous dies from a condition any of us is prone to have. In fact, the diseases that British pop icon George Michael died from are known to be "silent killers" and are common conditions that occur even in healthy individuals.

On Tuesday, a coroner ruled that the 53-year-old singer died of natural causes. The cause of death was dilated cardiomyopathy with myocarditis and fatty liver, according to Darren Salter, senior coroner for Oxfordshire, west of London.

Michael was said to have been found "lying peacefully" in bed at his home in London on Christmas Day. The singer's funeral can now take place after three months of tests.

Now that we know that the late singer's untimely death was due to health-related diseases - which may very well happen to us too - it is important that we recognise what causes them and what can we do to have a healthier lifestyle.

What is dilated cardiomyopathy, or DCM?

Graphic: British Heart Foundation

DCM is a disease of the heart muscle where it becomes stretched and thin. The heart is therefore unable to pump blood around the body efficiently.

This can lead to a build-up of fluids in the lungs, ankles, abdomen and other organs in the body.

The cause of DCM isn't known but some conditions and substances are known to cause the disease, such as heart attacks, high blood pressure, diabetes, alcohol, toxins such as cobalt, and certain medicines used to treat cancer.

Symptoms of DCM include shortness of breath, swelling of ankles and abdomen, excessive tiredness and palpitations. DCM develops slowly, so some people may have quite severe symptoms before they are diagnosed.

According to the American Heart Organisation, DCM occurs mostly in adults aged 20 to 60. It can be inherited and is caused by a change or mutation in one or more genes.

Read also: Scientists find key gene mutations behind inherited heart disease

There is no cure for DCM currently but treatments are available to help control the symptoms and prevent complications, according to the British Heart Foundation.

What is myocarditis?

According to the Myocarditis Foundation, myocarditis is the inflammation and damage of heart muscle.

It usually attacks healthy people and it is generally believed that five to 20 per cent of all cases of sudden death in young adults are due to myocarditis.

Some causes of myocarditis include viral infections, autoimmune diseases, environmental toxins, and adverse reactions to medications.

What is a fatty liver?

Graphic: Mayo Clinic

Fatty liver is what it says it is, a liver with excess fat. It is also known as steatosis and occurs when more than five to 10 per cent of your liver weight is made up of fat.

Having too much fat in the liver interrupts the organ's function of filtering harmful substances from the blood stream. A liver has the ability to repair itself and repeated damage can cause scarring, leading to liver failure or cancer.

Read also: How to eliminate fatty liver

Fatty liver is often discovered in middle-aged patients, or those aged 40 to 60, and is caused by obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes, genetic inheritance, rapid weight loss. It may also be caused by side effects of medications such as aspirin, steroids, tamoxifen and tetracycline.

There is no treatment or cure but it can be managed by changing your lifestyle, reducing your weight if you are overweight and abstaining from alcohol if possible.

Read also:

- Details emerge of George Michael's many quiet acts of kindness

- 'Last Christmas': George Michael reportedly died from heart failure

- 2016 begins and ends with music deaths

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