Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy - Topic Overview
What is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy?
cardiomyopathy (say "hy-per-TROH-fik kar-dee-oh-my-AWP-uh-thee") happens when
the heart muscle grows too thick, so the heart gets bigger and its
chambers get smaller. Many people
have no symptoms and live a normal life with few problems. But in some people with this condition:
heart doesn't get enough blood and oxygen, which can cause chest pain.
- A fast, slow, or uneven heartbeat (arrhythmia) develops. In rare cases, this can cause sudden death.
- The heart doesn't pump
blood well, or it doesn't relax between beats as it should. In rare cases,
this can lead to
People who exercise
often and hard may have changes in their heart muscle that can
be confused with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This condition is
called athlete's heart syndrome. It is harmless. When an athlete stops
training, the heart will return to a normal size.
What causes hypertrophic cardiomyopathy?
genes cause the heart to grow more than it should.
cardiomyopathy is the most common
genetic disease of the heart. This means it runs in families. About 1 in 500 adults has this condition.1
You are at risk for hypertrophic
cardiomyopathy if either of your parents or a brother or sister has it or
died suddenly at a young age. Talk to your doctor about
What are the symptoms?
You may not have any symptoms. Or you might:
- Feel tired and
short of breath when you are active.
- Have chest
pain. You may have a heavy, tight feeling in your
chest. Chest pain is often brought on by exercise, when the heart has to work
- Feel dizzy or faint, often
after you have been active.
- Feel like your heart is pounding,
racing, or beating unevenly (palpitations).
A rapid or irregular heartbeat or
fainting spells are signs of an arrhythmia, which makes sudden death more
How is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy diagnosed?
Your doctor will do a physical exam and ask you about any health problems you've had and about
any family history of heart disease or early and sudden death. You may need tests such as:
Your doctor may refer
you to a doctor who specializes in heart problems (cardiologist). Based on your
symptoms, past health, and family history, the specialist can assess your risk
for sudden death. People who are at high risk will need regular checkups. If you are at low risk for sudden death, you may not need to see your doctor often. But you will need a checkup anytime your symptoms change or get worse.