Cardiomyopathy Treatment

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: February 2024

Cardiomyopathy is a heart condition that affects the heart muscle. There is no cure for cardiomyopathy, but there are several ways to treat the condition. For the best long-term outcomes, early detection and an accurate diagnosis are key.1

When treating cardiomyopathy, the primary goals are to:2,3

  • Manage symptoms
  • Slow down or stop the progression of the disease
  • Improve overall heart function

Doctors also aim to treat underlying causes, such as high blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes, or infections. Tackling these health issues can prevent further heart damage and reduce the risk of complications.2

Who treats cardiomyopathy?

Treating a complex heart disease like cardiomyopathy requires a team effort. Cardiologists (doctors who specialize in heart diseases) lead the team. They may work with:4

  • Electrophysiologists for issues related to heart rhythm
  • Cardiovascular surgeons for surgical procedures
  • Cardiac rehabilitation specialists for programs like nutrition counseling and exercise programs

Types of cardiomyopathy treatment

Your treatment will depend on the type of cardiomyopathy you have. Your treatment plan might include one or a combination of the following.1-3,5

Medicines

Several medicines may be used to treat cardiomyopathy, including:1-3,6

  • Beta-blockers – Used to help reduce the workload on the heart, control blood pressure, and improve heart function. Examples include atenolol (Tenormin®), bisoprolol, and metoprolol (Loressor®, Toprol-XL®).
  • ACE inhibitors – Used to relax blood vessels. This makes it easier for your heart to pump blood. Common ACE inhibitors used include benazepril (Lotensin®), captopril (Capoten®), and enalapril (Vasotec®).
  • Diuretics – Used to manage extra sodium and fluid buildup in the lungs and other tissues. This reduces strain on the heart. Diuretics are also known as water pills.
  • Blood thinners (anticoagulants) – Used to prevent blood clots and blocked arteries. Examples include warfarin (Jantoven®), dabigatran (Pradaxa®), rivaroxaban (Xarelto®), edoxaban (Savaysa®), and apixaban (Eliquis®).
  • Antiarrhythmic medicines – Used to treat a fast or irregular heartbeat. Examples include digoxin and amiodarone (Pacerone®).

These are not the only medicines that may be prescribed for cardiomyopathy. Talk to your doctor about what they recommend for you.3

Lifestyle changes

As with most heart diseases, healthy lifestyle habits are incredibly important in maintaining good heart health. This includes:1,2,7,8

  • Balanced diet – A heart-healthy diet includes plenty of whole fruits and vegetables and limits processed foods and red meat. This diet also helps keep weight down and reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Physical activity – Regular exercise is great for the heart. Overall, exercise helps the heart work better. And it reduces the risk of many heart diseases, including heart attack, coronary artery disease, and high blood pressure. Inactive people have a higher risk of developing heart disease than active people.
  • Not smoking – Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease.
  • Stress reduction – Acute stress is a risk factor for cardiomyopathy. This is especially true for takotsubo cardiomyopathy, also called broken heart syndrome. Reducing stress is key. If you have other risk factors such as a family history of the disease, stress reduction is even more important.

Medical procedures

If medicine and lifestyle changes do not improve heart health enough, there are other treatment options. These will depend on how serious your condition is. Procedures can include:1-3,5

  • Catheter ablation – A thin, flexible tube called a catheter is inserted through a blood vessel to the heart. There, it delivers radiofrequency energy or extreme cold to abnormal heart tissue that may be causing an irregular heart rhythm.
  • Septal ablation – A doctor injects alcohol into the affected area of the heart. The alcohol causes the heart muscle to thin. This may help reduce symptoms of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. It is a less invasive option than other procedures and surgeries.

Surgery

In some cases, surgical procedures may be necessary. These may include:1-3,5

  • Implantable devices – A device like a pacemaker or defibrillator can help regulate heart rhythm and prevent sudden cardiac arrest.
  • Ventricular assist device (VAD) – These mechanical pumps help weakened hearts pump blood. VADs are typically used only when other therapies have not worked. They can be used for short-term and long-term treatment.
  • Septal myectomy – This surgery removes part of the thickened heart muscle (septum) to improve blood flow. It is generally used to treat hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
  • Heart transplant – This surgery is used only for people who are in end-stage heart failure and when other treatments have not worked. This invasive procedure replaces your heart with a healthy heart from a donor.

Can cardiomyopathy be prevented?

Some forms of cardiomyopathy are hereditary and unavoidable. But adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle can greatly reduce the risk of developing acquired cardiomyopathy. Preventative measures include:6,7

  • Regular exercise
  • Balanced diet
  • Regular health check-ups
  • Treating medical issues that could worsen your heart health
  • Avoiding harmful substances like alcohol, tobacco, and other recreational drugs

Talk with your doctor

If you are having symptoms such as chest pain, dizziness or fainting, shortness of breath, or heart palpitations, tell your doctor. They will do a complete medical assessment to find out what is going on.1,2

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Treatment results and side effects can vary from person to person. This treatment information is not meant to replace professional medical advice. Talk to your doctor about what to expect before starting and while taking any treatment.