While it’s impossible to prevent cardiomyopathy, you can lower your risk for heart problems and other conditions that can lead to or worsen it. Depending on your type of cardiomyopathy and its progress, your doctor may recommend different treatment options. In addition to recommending that you maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle, your doctor will prescribe medications and may discuss procedures or surgeries to control your cardiomyopathy symptoms.
Cardiomyopathy falls into a group of disorders that eventually culminate in heart muscle dysfunction. Cardiomyopathy can be from coronary artery disease (CAD), which results from an obstruction of blood flow (ischemic), or other causes that are nonischemic, which can include cardiomyopathies caused by external factors (viruses, parasites, alcohol, or infectious diseases) or inherited cardiomyopathies. Making the following lifestyle modifications can help slow the development of your cardiomyopathy and help control your symptoms:
- Eat a heart-healthy diet – A heart-healthy diet is rich in lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and is limited in salt and solid fats. Your doctor may suggest working with a dietician or nutritionist to develop an eating plan.
- Engage in daily physical activity – Regular exercise is one of the keys to heart health. Most doctors recommend incorporating more movement into daily life, such as taking the stairs rather than an elevator or escalator. While patients with cardiomyopathies can be restricted from some activities, doctors try to tailor an exercise and activity plan to help patients do as much as possible. Be sure to check with your doctor before embarking on any exercise plan.
- Quit smoking – Tobacco use is one of the leading causes of heart health problems. Talking with your doctor about strategies to help quit smoking is a good idea if you smoke.
- Limit alcohol – Too much alcohol can spell trouble for the heart, particularly when used excessively. If you must drink alcohol, limit your intake to no more than one drink (which is equal to 1.5 ounces of liquor, 5 ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer) per day for women* (assigned female at birth) and two drinks per day for men* (assigned male at birth).1
- Visit your doctor regularly – You should schedule appointments regularly, as this will help your doctor gain the best understanding of your cardiomyopathy and your progress as a patient. Ask your doctor about a cardiac rehabilitation program suitable for your cardiomyopathy.
Many different medications may be prescribed to treat cardiomyopathy, which may include the following:
- Blood pressure medications keep blood pressure down
- Medications slow the heart rate
- Antiarrhythmic medications that help the heart stay in a normal rhythm
- Diuretics help keep fluids from building up in the body
- Anticoagulants thin the blood and prevent blood clots
Procedures and surgeries
Some surgical options exist for the treatment of cardiomyopathy and its symptoms:
- Implantable devices – These devices include pacemakers to help the heart stay in normal rhythm and cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) devices to help coordinate the heart’s pumping activity. Other implantable units include a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), which assists the heart in pumping blood effectively, and an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), which helps control arrhythmias that could lead to sudden cardiac arrest.
- Septal myectomy – This open-heart surgery may be used for patients with obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) and severe symptoms.
- Alcohol septal ablation – This minimally invasive procedure is performed for obstructive HCM. An interventional cardiologist guides a small tube through the blood vessels to the heart and applies a tiny amount of alcohol to kill the heart's extra cells, causing cardiomyopathy symptoms.
- Valve procedures – In some cases, cardiomyopathy may result in severe leakage of the heart valves, and in certain situations, a surgical or catheter-based procedure may be indicated.
- Heart transplant – If all other measures can't control the symptoms associated with cardiomyopathy, a heart transplant from a deceased donor may be necessary. After a heart transplant, continuing medical management will be necessary.
*The term “women” in the context of “women’s cardiovascular health” applies to individuals assigned female at birth (AFAB) who have a female biological reproductive system, which includes a vagina, uterus, ovaries, Fallopian tubes, accessory glands, and external genital organs.
*The term “men” in the context of “cardiovascular health” applies to individuals assigned male at birth (AMAB) who have a male biological reproductive system, which includes a penis, scrotum, testes, epididymis, vas deferens, prostate, and seminal vesicles.