Fainting or near-fainting (syncope), especially with exertion.
Heart palpitations, an uncomfortable awareness of the heart
beating rapidly or irregularly.
Sudden death may occur from the onset of ventricular
tachycardia (a type of rapid heart rate) or other dangerous
arrhythmias. A genetic factor appears to influence
which people with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy are more prone to sudden death.
Other risk factors for sudden death include severe obstruction of the left
ventricle, multiple fainting (syncope) episodes, recurring episodes of
ventricular tachycardia, and an abnormal drop in blood pressure during
If you or someone you love requires emergency heart treatment, it will help to know when to get to the emergency room and what to expect. It's also important to know how to be prepared in the event of a heart attack.
Although it can occur in any age group, sudden death is
most shocking when it happens to young adults or athletes. While these tragic
deaths are often given prominence in the media, sudden death is rare (1% or
less each year in adults with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy).2
Complications of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
Atrial fibrillation is a common complication of
hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This abnormal heart rhythm interferes with the
normal pumping of the heart. It can cause blood clots to develop in the heart,
which can break off and travel through the bloodstream (systemic embolism).
This may cause a
stroke, heart attack, or blocked blood flow to an arm
may develop if the disease progresses. In heart failure, the heart's lower
chambers are not able to pump blood effectively enough to meet the body's needs
for oxygen and nutrients. Common symptoms include fluid buildup (edema) in the
legs, ankles, and feet; shortness of breath while lying down or exercising; and
increased urination at night.
Athlete's heart syndrome
People who exercise
regularly and vigorously often develop changes in their heart muscle that can
be confused for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. In such athletes, the heart muscle
grows to adapt to the extra demands from physical activities. This condition is
called athlete's heart syndrome. But unlike hypertrophic cardiomyopathy,
athlete's heart syndrome does not cause life-threatening heart rhythms and
sudden death. It is a benign, or harmless, condition. When an athlete stops
training, the heart returns to a normal size unlike those with hypertrophic
cardiomyopathy, in which the heart remains enlarged.