Within the chest of legendary performer Wayne Newton beats the heart of an entertainer.
Over a period of more than 40 years, the 65-year-old singer has performed more than 30,000 solo shows in Las Vegas -- an impressive record that earned him the moniker "Mr. Las Vegas." And even those too young to remember his debut as a star in the early '60s can croon along with him to his signature song "Danke Schoen."
But now, a heart condition that affects about 3 million Americans has put the brakes on Newton's fancy footwork at least through the Nov. 27 finale of "Dancing With the Stars."
Newton is battling cardiomyopathy, a viral infection of the heart, said his spokeswoman Lori Jonas. According to Jonas, he will not be performing at the finale of this year's "Dancing" competition, although he should be healthy enough to make an appearance.
The viral cardiomyopathy infection has also forced him to cancel a two-month engagement at Harrah's in Las Vegas.
Newton was previously treated for cardiomyopathy in 2001 while performing USO tours in Afghanistan. His spokeswoman said this is a separate and new viral infection.
Cardiomyopathy is a form of heart disease in which the actual heart muscle deteriorates, causing it to grow and thicken. This enlargement makes it increasingly difficult for the heart to efficiently pump blood throughout the body. In turn, the stress and strain placed on a heart trying to adequately supply the body with blood can cause it to weaken and could eventually lead to heart failure.
"The danger that we're most concerned with is that the heartbeat rhythm would become irregular and the patient could have sudden cardiac arrest," said Dr. Richard Stein, director of the Urban Community Cardiology Program at New York University Medical School.
Stein adds that Newton's participation on "Dancing With the Stars" could have been challenging much more than just his ability to dance.
"There's no question that the extreme physical stress and adrenaline that he would feel performing in front of an audience represents a danger, as well as a danger in training and rehearsing."
Fortunately, the average American's heart will never experience the physical stress and adrenaline rush associated with cha-chaing across the dance floor in front of an audience of millions -- but that does not eliminate them from a potentially dangerous tango with cardiomyopathy.
"Currently there are roughly 3 million people in the United States who are affected by cardiomyopathy. That's a lifetime risk of about 1 in 5," said Dr. Michael Cuffe, chief medical officer and vice president of the Duke University Health System, adding, "The American Heart Association reports about 550,000 new cases each year."
According to Cuffe, there is no single cause for contracting the disease.
"There are many causes of cardiomyopathy, including high blood pressure, coronary artery disease and viral infections," he said.
And for those diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, the long-term prognosis, according to Cuffe, can be grim.
"Unfortunately, the long-term prognosis is not good," he said. "Typically half of all patients will die between five and seven years of being diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, which is quite a poor prognosis. Those who are sicker, older, weaker or have fluid build-up do even worse. About half of those patients can die within one to two years."