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Lifestyle Changes for Cardiomyopathy & Heart Failure

Making diet and exercise changes may help ease symptoms and improve the quality of life of people with cardiomyopathy and heart failure. NYU Langone heart specialists may recommend that people with any type or cause of heart failure take the following steps to lead a more heart healthy lifestyle. Your doctor tailors these recommendations to fit your diagnosis and lifestyle.

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Eat Healthfully

Eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and choosing lean meats and fish can help improve your heart health.

Also, keeping your salt, or sodium, intake in check can help reduce swelling in the legs caused by a buildup of fluid. If you experience this symptom, your NYU Langone doctor may recommend reducing your sodium intake to 2,000 to 3,000 milligrams or less per day. Your doctor may also recommend reducing the amount you drink each day to lessen fluid retention.

Nutritionists at NYU Langone can create a heart healthy diet for you. They can also teach you how to read food labels, so that you are aware of the amount of sodium you are eating or drinking.

Stay Active

Daily light exercise is safe for most people with cardiomyopathy and heart failure and can help them to manage symptoms. Over time, it can reduce heart rate and blood pressure.

Your NYU Langone heart specialist can recommend an exercise program that’s right for you. It may include walking, cycling, or jogging. Our doctors also work closely with specialists at NYU Langone’s Rusk Rehabilitation and the Joan & Joel Smilow Cardiac Prevention & Rehabilitation Center to create customized exercise plans.

It is important to consult your physician before starting any exercise program.

Monitor Blood Pressure

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, can worsen symptoms of heart failure, so it’s important to achieve or maintain a healthy blood pressure. You can check your blood pressure with a home monitor or at a pharmacy. Be sure to report any unusual readings to your doctor and take any medications he or she prescribes.

Monitor Weight

Our doctors recommend that people with heart failure monitor any changes in weight by keeping a daily record. Fluctuations in weight can indicate that the body is retaining excess fluid, a sign that heart failure symptoms may be worsening. Contact your doctor if you experience any sudden weight changes.

Obesity increases your risk for cardiomyopathy and heart failure. Your NYU Langone doctor may refer you to our Weight Management Program, where specialists can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

Control Diabetes

If you have diabetes, you’re at higher risk of developing some heart conditions. It’s important to ensure that diabetes is under control. NYU Langone specialists can teach you how to better manage this condition.

Quit Smoking

Smoking and other forms of tobacco use have a negative effect on the entire body, including the heart, blood vessels, and lungs. NYU Langone’s Tobacco Cessation Programs offer support and effective strategies for quitting.

Limit Alcohol Consumption

Drinking alcohol can raise blood pressure and contribute to obesity and diabetes, which are risk factors for heart failure. Heavy drinking generally refers to when women have 8 or more drinks per week and men have 15 or more. Long-term heavy drinking can increase the risk of heart failure and alcoholic cardiomyopathy, in which excess alcohol weakens the heart muscle. Your NYU Langone doctor may recommend you limit your alcohol consumption or stop drinking.

Manage Stress

Excessive stress can make it difficult to adhere to healthy lifestyle recommendations, such as making time to prepare healthy meals and exercise. To better manage stress, ensure that you’re sleeping enough, exercise according to your doctor’s recommendations, and consider practicing deep breathing, yoga or other relaxation methods.

Experts at NYU Langone’s Integrative Health Services offer techniques and methods to help manage stress.

Avoid Certain Over-the-Counter Medications

Some over-the-counter cough and cold medications contain stimulants, which may trigger an arrhythmia—a rapid and erratic heartbeat sometimes associated with cardiomyopathy.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, may worsen heart failure. Talk to your NYU Langone doctor before taking these medications.

Our Research and Education in Cardiomyopathy and Heart Failure

Learn more about our research and professional education opportunities.