Cardiomyopathy isn’t a single kind of disease. Instead, it refers to different kinds of diseases that affect the heart muscle. Cardiomyopathy makes it harder for the heart to move blood throughout the body. Most of the time doctors don’t know what causes cardiomyopathy, but it can be caused by other conditions like high blood pressure and heart attack. Because older adults may be at risk for cardiomyopathy because of these medical conditions, knowing more about it may help you to spot the signs in your aging relative.
When a person has cardiomyopathy, their heart gets bigger than normal. The muscle gets stiff and thick. In some cases, scar tissue replaces the muscle tissue.
Gradually, the condition gets worse. When that happens, the heart becomes so weak that it is no longer able to efficiently pump blood to all parts of the body. It may also be incapable of maintaining a normal rhythm. This can lead to heart valve problems, heart failure, or arrhythmias.
Risk factors are things that make it more likely a person will develop a condition. The risk factors for cardiomyopathy are:
* Having a family history that includes cardiomyopathy, heart failure, or cardiac arrest.
* High blood pressure over a long period of time.
* Heart conditions like heart attack, coronary artery disease, or a heart infection.
* Ongoing alcohol abuse.
* Drug abuse.
* Some treatments used for cancer.
* Some disease, including diabetes, problems of the thyroid gland, and sarcoidosis.
Experts at the Mayo Clinic say that many cases of cardiomyopathy cannot be prevented. However, there may be some lifestyle changes that can help, such as:
* Not using alcohol and drugs.
* Keeping conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol under control.
* Eating a healthy, balanced diet.
* Adequate sleep.
* Reducing stress.
* Cardiomyopathy Symptoms
Many times, there are no early signs of cardiomyopathy. However, as the condition worsens, you may notice symptoms like:
* Difficulty breathing.
* Swollen legs, feet, or ankles.
* Bloated abdomen.
* Coughing when lying down.
* A rapid, pounding, or fluttering heartbeat.
* Discomfort or pressure in the chest.
* Feeling dizzy or lightheaded.
Home health care can help family caregivers to watch for signs of cardiomyopathy. Home health care can also help to prevent the condition. A home health care provider can prepare healthy meals for your aging relative. In addition, a home health care provider can encourage the senior to exercise more. If your elderly family member is diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a home health care provider can remind them to take medications and drive them to medical appointments.