Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is most commonly caused by

  • Abnormal genes
  • Diet
  • A virus

Although doctors don’t always know what causes certain cases, typically people with HCM get it from an abnormal gene that codes for proteins of the heart muscle. Other things that contribute to a thickened heart muscle include high blood pressure, the athletic heart, or aging.


HCM thickens your heart’s

  • Arteries
  • Muscle
  • Valves

The word hypertrophic means “increase in bulk.” In HCM, the bulk happens in your heart’s muscle, especially the ventricles, or lower heart chambers.


Thicker heart muscle means it pumps

  • More blood than usual
  • Less blood than usual
  • Slower than usual

Thick heart muscles in HCM can block blood flow out of the heart and they get stiff. When they’re not as flexible, they can’t pump as much blood in and out as they should.


HCM has a cure.

  • True
  • False

Although there’s no cure for HCM, there are many treatments that relieve symptoms and improve your quality of life.


Adults with a close relative with HCM should get screened

  • Once a month
  • Once a year
  • Every 3-5 years

If you’re over 30 -- but have no symptoms of HCM -- and have a parent, child, or sibling with HCM, your doctor will recommend you have an echocardiogram and electrocardiogram every 5 years. If you’re under 30, you’ll go more often: every 1-3 years.


You’re most likely to get an HCM diagnosis

  • As a child
  • As a teen
  • In middle age

You can get HCM at any age, but most often doctors diagnose it in people who are middle-aged.


You can prevent hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

  • True
  • False

Because HCM is tied to an inherited gene, there aren’t steps to keep yourself from getting it. But with early intervention and treatment, you can help prevent complications.


HCM affects 1 in ___ Americans.

  • 50
  • 500
  • 5,000

As many as 1.5 million people in the U.S. have HCM.


Many people who have HCM have no symptoms.

  • True
  • False

One of the reasons HCM goes undiagnosed in many people is because they have either no symptoms or very mild symptoms. If the disease progresses, it can start to cause more symptoms.


HCM can affect your breathing.

  • True
  • False

HCM may cause a backup of pressure in your left atrium and lungs. That can make it harder to get a deep breath and leave you feeling short of breath.


Moderate exercise is generally safe if you have HCM.

  • True
  • False

Regular aerobic exercise like walking or swimming is generally safe. Low-intensity competitive sports are also reasonable for most people with HCM. Always talk to your doctor first before starting a new exercise routine.

Show Sources

IMAGE PROVIDED BY: janulla / Getty Images 


Cleveland Clinic: “Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy.” 

Mayo Clinic: “Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.” 

UpToDate: “Patient education: Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (Beyond the Basics).” 

American Heart Association: “Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM).” 

University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics: “Heart failure medicine dos and don'ts: What to avoid.” 

NYU Langone Health: “Lifestyle Changes for Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy."