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Dilated Cardiomyopathy


Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a disease of the heart muscle that causes the ventricles to get larger and weaker. The ventricles are the 2 lower chambers of your heart. They pump blood to your lungs and the rest of your body. When the ventricles are dilated and weak, your heart cannot pump blood well. This decreases the blood and oxygen supply to the rest of your body.



  • Diuretics: This medicine helps decrease fluid around your lungs and heart. It also helps decrease extra fluid in your legs and ankles. You will urinate more often when you take diuretics.
  • Blood thinners: Blood thinners help prevent blood clots.
  • Heart medicine: This medicine helps strengthen or regulate your heartbeat.
  • Blood pressure medicine: This is given to lower your blood pressure. A controlled blood pressure helps protect your organs, such as your heart, lungs, brain, and kidneys. Take your blood pressure medicine exactly as directed.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your primary healthcare provider or cardiologist as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.


  • Check your weight daily: Weight gain can be a sign of extra fluid in your body. Weigh yourself at the same time every morning. Use the same scale and weigh yourself before you eat and after you urinate. Record your weight and the time you weighed yourself in a diary. Bring your diary to your visits with your primary healthcare provider or cardiologist.
  • Limit your liquids: Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. Your risk for fluid buildup and swelling increase if you drink too much liquid.
  • Manage your health conditions: Health conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, may make your symptoms worse and increase your risk for other heart problems.
  • Exercise: Ask about the best exercise plan for you. Exercise may help decrease your symptoms and improve your heart function.
  • Wear support socks: These socks may help decrease the swelling in your legs until you can walk more. They may also keep blood from staying in your legs and causing clots.
  • Eat a variety of healthy foods: Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Limit the amount of sodium (salt) you eat. Too much sodium can cause swelling and make your symptoms worse. Ask how much sodium you can have each day. Pay careful attention to sodium content on food labels.
  • Do not drink alcohol, smoke, or use drugs: If you smoke it is never too late to quit. Do not take any illegal street drugs. Alcohol, smoking, or illegal drugs can make your heart condition worse. Ask for information if you need help quitting.

Contact your primary healthcare provider or cardiologist if:

  • You gain weight for no known reason.
  • You feel weak or more tired than usual.
  • You have increased swelling in your legs, ankles, feet, or abdomen.
  • Your symptoms return or get worse.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • You feel like your heart is beating faster than normal, fluttering, or jumping in your chest.
  • You urinate less than usual or not at all.
  • You have chest pain that may be worse when you take a deep breath or cough. You may cough up blood.
  • You have a sudden cold sweat, especially with chest discomfort or trouble breathing.
  • You feel very lightheaded or dizzy, especially with chest discomfort or trouble breathing.
  • You have pain or discomfort in your back, neck, jaw, abdomen, or one or both of your arms.
  • You have a severe headache or vision loss.
  • You have weakness in an arm or leg.
  • You are confused or have difficulty speaking.
  • You suddenly have trouble breathing.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Dilated Cardiomyopathy (Aftercare Instructions)

Associated drugs

Micromedex® Care Notes

Symptoms and treatments

Mayo Clinic Reference