Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

Cross section of heart with thick ventricle walls.Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a condition that affects the way the heart muscle works. It causes the heart muscle to grow thicker and stiffer than normal in certain areas, especially in the walls of the left ventricle and septum. This makes it hard for the heart to pump blood properly. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is most often caused by a genetic disorder, although it often doesn't show up until later in life. It can also develop due to aging or changes from chronic high blood pressure.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy may raise your risk for heart failure. Over time, the heart muscle may become too stiff to let the ventricle fill completely. Then the heart can't pump enough blood to meet the body's need. This can cause symptoms such as breathlessness, tiredness, or exhaustion when trying to exercise. Let your healthcare provider know if you have these symptoms.

In some people, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy carries a risk for sudden cardiac death. If you have any passing out spells, tell your healthcare provider about them right away. If anyone in your family has died suddenly, especially at an unexpected age, tell your healthcare provider.

The condition can be managed, but there is no cure. Talk to your healthcare provider about treatment.

What are the symptoms of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy?

You may have no symptoms with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. If symptoms do occur, they most likely appear when you exert yourself. Symptoms may include:

  • Problems catching your breath

  • Unexplained tiredness

  • Lightheadedness, dizzy spells, or fainting

  • Rapid, pounding heartbeat

  • Chest tightness or pressure

  • Fluid retention resulting in swollen feet or ankles or unexplained weight gain

What happens in your heart?

As the walls of the heart muscle thicken, it becomes harder for the heart to hold as much blood as possible. Thick walls may also block blood flow out to the rest of the body and damage heart valves. A stiff heart muscle can’t relax between pumps the way it should, so less blood moves with each pump. Also, the heart may sometimes beat irregularly (too fast and out of rhythm).

Your treatment plan

Treatment can help keep cardiomyopathy from getting worse, and can reduce your symptoms. Your healthcare provider will work with you to develop a treatment plan to help you feel better now and prevent problems in the future. It is very important to follow the treatment plan exactly as directed. If you have questions or problems, talk to your healthcare provider.