Cardiomyopathy - patient education

Cardiomyopathy - patient education

Oak Valley Health's patient education pages share the skills, knowledge, and habits patients and families need to know to cope with a daily health issue. We hope this information can influence patient behaviour to improve health outcomes and provide you with a sense of control and autonomy.

Learn more about the risks, causes, and treatment of cardiomyopathy

What is cardiomyopathy?

Cardiomyopathy or heart failure is when the heart is weakened and unable to effectively pump blood around the body. As a result of the weakened pumping the rest of the body does not get the blood and oxygen it needs. This weakness can also lead to congestion in a person’s heart, lungs and other areas of the body (heart failure. Cardiomyopathy is classified into several types. The type of cardiomyopathy you have is determined by which part of your heart is affected and how it is affected.

What can cause cardiomyopathy?

Cardiomyopathy has 2 different types of causes:

  1. Weakness caused by blockages in the heart: heart attack, inactivity, poor diet, obesity, genetics
  2. Weakness with no blockages in the heart: caused by a virus, genetics, uncontrolled high blood pressure, uncontrolled diabetes, pregnancy, cancer treatments, alcoholism, recreational drug use, heart valve abnormalities, abnormal heart rhythm or rate, unknown cause
What increases the risks?
  • Lifestyle choices: smoking, alcohol use, sedentary lifestyle, recreational drug use
  • Uncontrolled medical conditions: high blood pressure, diabetes, irregular or fast heart rate
How is cardiomyopathy diagnosed?

An ultrasound of your heart called an ECHO

How is this treated?
  • Medication to:
    • Strengthen the heart
    • Decrease heart rate
    • Remove extra fluid from the body
    • Control high blood pressure
  • Lifestyle changes:
    • Reduce fluid and salt intake
    • Become more active with approval of doctor
    • Take medications as prescribed
    • Weigh self daily
  • Potential surgeries to treat :
    • Abnormal heart Rhythms with an implanted pacemaker or defibrillator
    • Blockage with an bypass surgery or angiogram
    • In severe cases a new heart is put in to replace the failing heart
If you have been diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, please contact your doctor or health care provider immediately if you are experiencing any of the following:
  • Gained more than 4lbs in 2 days or 5lbs in 1 week
  • More short of breath than usual
  • Increased swelling in hands, legs, feet, abdomen
  • Hard to breath when you are lying flat
  • Needing more pillows under your head at night to sleep
  • Increased or new dizziness

* The earlier symptoms are identified, the better the outcomes of treatment can be

If you have been diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, please get help immediately if you are experiencing any of the following:
  • Chest pain that does not go away at rest or with medication
  • If you are struggling to breath
  • Shortness of breath that does not go away at rest
  • A fast or thumping heart rate that does not go away at rest
  • If you faint
  • If you have new confusion or difficulty thinking

* These symptoms are urgent, call 911 and get help immediately

Where can I get more information?

Heart and Stroke Foundation Website

Cardiac Health Foundation of Canada Website

Reference: Cardiomyopathy. (2021, May 27). Elsevier Inc: ClinicalKey for Nursing. Retrieved from here.