What is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy?
See a picture of a normal heart and a heart with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the most common genetic heart disease. This means it runs in families. About 1 out of 500 adults have this condition. It often starts early in life, from the teens through the mid-30s.1
It cannot be cured, but you can treat the symptoms.
What causes hypertrophic cardiomyopathy?
Certain genes cause the heart to grow more than it should. If you have family members with the disease, you are more likely to get it.
What are the symptoms?
If you have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, you may:
Call your doctor if:
How is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask you about any health problems you've had and about any family history of heart disease or early and sudden death. Your doctor will do a physical exam. You may need tests such as an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), chest X-ray, or echocardiogram.
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 your parents or any brothers or sisters have the disease or died suddenly at a young age, you are at risk. Talk to your doctor about getting tests to check for the disease.
How is it treated?
Many people with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy don't need treatment. Treatment depends on your symptoms and whether you have developed heart failure or abnormal heart rhythms.
If your doctor feels you are at high risk for sudden death from an arrhythmia, you may need an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD). An ICD is a small device like a pacemaker. It treats dangerous heart rhythms.
What else can you do for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy?
Many adults with this disease have full and long lives. You can help yourself by not smoking and by eating healthy foods.
Avoid strenuous activity and intense exercise, because they could lead to sudden death. Talk with your doctor about activity levels that are right for you.
Also talk to your doctor about how often you need checkups.
Frequently Asked Questions
eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise
To learn more visit Healthwise.org
© 1995-2012 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Find out what women really need.