Prevention and Treatment of Cardiomyopathy

People who have cardiomyopathy but no signs or symptoms may not need treatment. Sometimes, dilated cardiomyopathy that comes on suddenly may even go away on its own.

In other instances, treatment is needed. Treatment hinges on a few factors: the type of cardiomyopathy, the severity of your symptoms and complications as well as your age and overall health.

Treatment goals

When treating cardiomyopathy, objectives include:

  • Stopping the disease from getting worse
  • Managing any conditions that cause or contribute to the disease
  • Reducing complications and the risk of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA)
  • Controlling symptoms so that you can live as normally as possible

Treatments for cardiomyopathies

Treatment for cardiomyopathy may include one or more of the following:

Lifestyle changes

Lifestyle changes may help to manage a condition that’s causing your cardiomyopathy.

Healthy diet and physical activity

Other lifestyle changes

Your doctor also may recommend other lifestyle changes, such as:

Medications

Many medications are used to treat cardiomyopathy. Your doctor may prescribe medicines to:

  • Lower your blood pressure. ACE inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers, beta blockers and calcium channel blockers are examples of medicines that lower blood pressure.
  • Slow your heart rate. Beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, and digoxin are examples of medicines that slow the heart rate. Beta blockers and calcium channel blockers also are used to lower blood pressure.
  • Keep your heart beating with a normal rhythm. These medicines, called antiarrhythmics, help prevent arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats).
  • Balance electrolytes in your body. Electrolytes are minerals that help maintain fluid levels and the acid-base balance in your body. Electrolytes also help muscle and nerve tissues work properly. Medicines used to balance electrolytes include aldosterone blockers.
  • Remove excess fluid and sodium from your body. Diuretics, or “water pills,” are an example of a medicine that helps remove excess fluid and sodium from the body.
  • Prevent blood clots from forming. Anticoagulants (PDF), or “blood thinners,” help to prevents blood clots. Blood thinners often are used to prevent blood clots from forming in people who have dilated cardiomyopathy.
  • Reduce inflammation. Medications used to reduce inflammation include corticosteroids.

Procedures for cardiomyopathy

A range of surgical and nonsurgical procedures can be used to treat cardiomyopathy:

  • Septal myectomy – Septal myectomy is open-heart surgery considered for people who have obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and severe symptoms. This surgery generally is reserved for younger patients and for people whose medications aren’t working well. A surgeon removes part of the thickened septum that’s bulging into the left ventricle. This improves blood flow within the heart and out to the body.
  • Surgically implanted devices – Surgeons can implant several types of devices in the body to help the heart work better, including:
  • Heart Transplant – In a heart transplant surgery, a person’s diseased heart is replaced with a healthy heart from a deceased donor. A heart transplant is a last resort for people who have end-stage heart failure. (“End-stage” means that all other treatment options have been explored, without success.)
  • Alcohol septal ablation (nonsurgical procedure) – In this procedure, your doctor injects ethanol (a type of alcohol) through a tube into the small artery that supplies blood to the thickened area of heart muscle affected by cardiomyopathy. The alcohol kills cells, and the thickened tissue shrinks to a more normal size.

How can cardiomyopathy be prevented?

You cannot prevent inherited types of cardiomyopathy. But you can take steps to lower your risk for conditions that may lead to (or complicate) cardiomyopathy, such coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and heart attack.

Cardiomyopathy can be precipitated by an underlying disease or condition. Treating that initial problem early enough may help prevent the complications presented by cardiomyopathy. For example, to control the underlying conditions of high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and diabetes:

  • Get regular checkups with your doctor.
  • Follow your doctor’s advice about lifestyle changes.
  • Take all of your medications exactly as prescribed by your doctor.

Just as some underlying conditions can bring about cardiomyopathy, cardiomyopathy in turn can cause other complications.

For instance, cardiomyopathy can increase the risk for sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). An implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) can be used to mitigate this risk.

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Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services(link opens in new window)