Cardiomyopathy is a term that encompasses several different disorders of the heart muscle. The most common type is dilated cardiomyopathy. In dilated cardiomyopathy, the heart chambers dilate (stretch out and become thinner). This affects how well your heart can pump blood to the rest of your body. Over time, your heart may weaken and you can experience heart failure. Some people do not realize they have dilated cardiomyopathy until symptoms of heart failure appear.
Dilated cardiomyopathy is sometimes an inherited disease. In other cases, it is caused by another factor such as heart disease, certain infections, and alcohol use. Often times, the cause of dilated cardiomyopathy cannot be found.
If your cardiologist diagnoses you with dilated cardiomyopathy, he or she may discuss a treatment plan to keep the disease from getting worse and to reduce your symptoms. Treatment varies for each individual. Some people have more severe symptoms and/or other conditions that need to be managed, such as coronary artery disease. Your treatment may include:
- Eating a heart healthy diet. This includes foods low in sodium, saturated fat, trans fat, and sugar.
- Losing excess pounds. If you are overweight or obese, your physician can work with you to develop a plan to lose weight. This will help your heart and your overall health.
- Exercise. Low-impact, moderate exercise may be recommended if you are not very active.
- Quitting smoking. Smoking is detrimental to your heart health and the health of your entire body. If you need help quitting, there is help available.
- Avoiding alcohol and illegal drugs.
- Getting adequate sleep and finding ways to reduce stress. Rest and relaxation do your heart good, and can help reduce symptoms.
- Medications. A variety of medications may be prescribed to help you. These may include heart and blood pressure medications, diuretics to remove excess fluid in your body, blood thinners, and steroids for inflammation.
- Surgery. Procedures to treat cardiomyopathy include a pacemaker, an implanted defibrillator, heart bypass surgery or angioplasty, and valve replacement or repair. If surgery is recommended, your cardiologist can discuss the procedure that will work best for you and what you can expect.
With the help of your cardiologist, you can manage this condition and minimize any symptoms. If this condition runs in your family or you are having symptoms of heart failure such as shortness of breath or unexplained fatigue, be sure to tell your physician. Getting an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment can help you get back to doing the things you enjoy.
Cardiovascular Care at CarePoint Health
Your heart is a complex, vital organ that deserves care from an expert, compassionate team of cardiologists in a state-of-the-art facility. The Cardiovascular Departments at Bayonne Medical Center, Christ Hospital, and Hoboken University Medical Center specialize in prevention and management of all types of cardiovascular disease. For more information about our cardiovascular care, please contact us.