Cardiomyopathy Living With

Call 9-1-1 right away if you think you or someone else is having a stroke or is in shock or sudden cardiac arrest. Learn the warning signs of stroke and how to help someone who is in cardiac arrest.

If you have cardiomyopathy, talk to your doctor about heart-healthy lifestyle changes and routine medical care that you may need to help you manage the disease.

Cardiomyopathy often runs in families. Your parents, children, or brothers and sisters may also have this condition and may need to go to their doctors to get checked.

What kinds of health problems can cardiomyopathy cause?

Cardiomyopathy can cause the following health problems in the heart and brain.

  • Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat): Cardiomyopathy can affect the electrical signals in your heart that control your heart rate and rhythm.
  • Cardiac arrest: Cardiomyopathy can cause your heart to stop beating suddenly and unexpectedly.
  • Cardiogenic shock: This is a life-threatening condition that occurs when your heart can’t pump enough blood and oxygen to your brain, kidneys, and other important organs.
  • Heart failure: This serious condition happens when your heart doesn’t pump enough blood for your body’s needs.
  • Heart valve disease: Cardiomyopathy can damage your heart valves, which are flaps of tissue in your heart that open and close with each heartbeat. Your heart vavles make sure that blood flows in the right direction through your heart's four chambers and to the rest of your body. 
  • Stroke: Cardiomyopathy weakens the heart, making it hard to pump blood well. Blood can pool in the chambers of your heart and cause a blood clot. If a clot breaks off and travels to your brain, it can cause a life-threatening stroke.

Make healthy lifestyle changes

Your doctor may ask you to make lifelong heart-healthy lifestyle changes. These can help prevent complications.

  • Aim for a healthy weight. Overweight and obesity can make your heart work harder.
  • Choose heart-healthy foods. Your doctor may suggest choosing foods that are lower in sodium (salt) and fat. Talk with your doctor about the amounts and types of fluids that are safe and healthy for you. Too much fluid can make your symptoms worse.
  • Get good-quality sleep. You may need to get tested for sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, that can make your symptoms worse.
  • Get regular physical activity. Ask your doctor what types and amounts of exercise are safe for you. This will depend on the type of cardiomyopathy that you have and whether you have any symptoms or problems. For example, vigorous exercise may raise your risk of an irregular heartbeat and sudden cardiac arrest. Your doctor may ask you to avoid competitive sports and high-intensity activities.
  • Manage stress. Extreme stress can cause cardiomyopathy or trigger an irregular heartbeat.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking raises your risk of other heart conditions that can make your cardiomyopathy worse.
  • Limit your alcohol intake. For men, this is no more than two drinks a day, and one drink a day for women. Also, do not use illegal drugs.

Cardiac rehabilitation can help you learn how to make these lifestyle changes to improve your quality of life.

In Brief: Your Guide to Living Well With Heart Disease factsheet

In Brief: Your Guide to Living Well with Heart Disease

Learn key steps to improve your heart health to prevent complications.

Get routine medical care

If you have cardiomyopathy, it's important to get ongoing care.

  • Keep all your doctor’s appointments. Bring a list of all the medicines you take to every doctor and emergency room visit. You may need routine heart and blood tests to check how well your treatment is working.
  • Get regular screenings. If you have a type of inherited cardiomyopathy but no symptoms, regular screenings can help your doctor check your heart health. Screening may include heart and blood tests.
  • Take your medicines as prescribed and stick to your treatment and cardiac rehabilitation plan. Do not stop taking any medicines unless your doctor tells you to do so.
  • Tell your doctor if you have side effects from your medicines, such as depression, dizziness, or feeling as if your heart is skipping a beat.
  • Tell your doctor if your symptoms are getting worse or if you have new symptoms, such as swelling in your ankles, feet, legs, abdomen, or veins in the neck. New symptoms may be a sign that your cardiomyopathy is getting worse.
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