George Michael's Death: What Causes 'Dilated Cardiomyopathy'?

George Michael in concert.
George Michael in concert. (Image credit: Slavko Sereda/Shutterstock)

Singer George Michael's death in December was due, in part, to a heart condition that can have many causes, including alcohol and drug abuse, and infections.

According to a statement from officials in Oxfordshire County, England, Michael died of natural causes, including a condition called "dilated cardiomyopathy with myocarditis."

"As there is a confirmed natural cause of death ... the investigation is being discontinued and there is no need for an inquest or any further enquiries," Darren Salter, the senior coroner for Oxfordshire, said in the statement.

Michael died on Dec. 25, 2016, at age 53, in his home in Oxfordshire County. [10 Celebrities with Chronic Illnesses]

Dilated cardiomyopathy is a condition that affects the heart muscle, and myocarditis means inflammation of the heart wall.

In people with dilated cardiomyopathy, the heart muscle stretches and becomes thinner, according to the American Heart Association. As a result, the heart chamber becomes enlarged, which affects the heart's ability to contract and pump blood. The condition typically begins in the heart's left ventricle, which is the organ's main pumping chamber, the AHA says.

Dilated cardiomyopathy is a common cause of heart failure, which happens when the heart can't adequately supply the body with blood, according to the Mayo Clinic. It can also lead to irregular heartbeats, blood clots and problems with the heart's valves. The condition is most common in men ages 20 to 60, the Mayo Clinic says.

In many cases, doctors cannot determine what caused a person's dilated cardiomyopathy. However, according to the National Institutes of Health, a number of factors can cause the condition, including the following:

  • Alcohol or cocaine abuse
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid disease
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Infections of the heart muscle
  • Medications that are harmful to the heart, such as certain cancer drugs
  • Genetics

Exposure to heavy metals, such as lead, arsenic, cobalt or mercury

Myocarditis is typically caused by a viral infection, but it can also result from exposure to illegal drugs, such as cocaine, or from an allergic reaction to a medication, according to the Mayo Clinic.

In 2011, Michael was hospitalized for a month with pneumonia, according to the BBC. He also had a history of drug use; in 2010, Michael was sentenced to eight weeks in prison for driving under the influence of marijuana, and in 2008, he was arrested on suspicions of possessing drugs, including crack cocaine, according to the BBC.

The coroner's statement also said that Michael had a condition called fatty liver, which means there's an excessive amount of fat stored in the liver's cells. This condition can result from heavy drinking, but it also has other causes, including obesity, high blood sugar and high levels of fat in the blood.

Original article on Live Science.

Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.