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Some people don’t know they have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy because they don’t feel any different. But sometimes, the thickened heart muscle can lead to serious problems like difficulty breathing or chest pain.

But “Is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy a serious heart condition?” In rare cases, it can cause dangerous irregular heartbeats or sudden death because of changes in how the heart’s electricity works.

What Is Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy?

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is when the heart muscle becomes thicker than normal, with extra tissue and scarring forming between the cells. This thickening can affect the walls between the heart’s chambers, making it harder for blood to flow out to the body.

In some cases, the thickened area can bulge into one of the heart’s chambers, making it even harder for blood to flow properly. This extra effort can strain the heart.

Because of the thickening, the heart’s chamber that pumps blood out (the left ventricle) becomes smaller and less flexible, making it harder to fill up with blood.

HCM can also harm the mitral valve, leading to higher pressure in the heart’s chambers and sometimes causing fluid buildup in the lungs. It can also cause irregular heart rhythms.

Causes of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

HCM is hereditary, but it’s not clear how exactly it works. It makes the left ventricle of your heart thicker. You only need one abnormal gene from one parent to get it, but even if you have that gene, you might not actually get HCM. Scientists are still figuring out what other things might make it more likely for someone to have this condition.

Symptoms

People with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy might experience:

  • Chest pain, especially when they’re active.
  • Passing out, especially during or after exercise or other physical activities.
  • Feeling like their heart is beating fast, fluttering, or pounding (palpitations).
  • Trouble breathing, especially when they’re being active.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your health history and physically examine you. They might also suggest some tests to help figure out what’s going on:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG): This checks your heart’s electrical activity to see if there are any problems with its rhythm.
  • Echocardiogram (ECHO): This test gives detailed pictures of your heart to confirm whether you have HCM and shows how well your heart works.
  • Stress echocardiogram (ECHO): You will exercise on a treadmill or bike while they take pictures of your heart to see how it responds to activity.
  • Portable electrocardiogram monitoring: You will wear a small device that records your heart’s rhythm throughout the day.
  • Other tests: Sometimes, they suggest additional tests, such as MRI scans, heart catheterization, or angiography, to obtain more information.
  • Genetic testing: In rare cases, they might do a test to check if HCM runs in your family.

Serious Complications of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

For most people with HCM, things are usually okay, but for some, especially if their condition is serious, there can be problems like:

  • Stroke
  • Heart failure
  • Increased risk of complications during pregnancy
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Sudden cardiac death (from a dangerous heart rhythm)
  • Infection of the heart valves (endocarditis)
  • Sudden death from a dangerous heartbeat is rare, but if you’re at risk, your doctor might suggest a device called an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) to help.

Concluding Thoughts

Are you still wondering, “Is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy a serious condition?” Any heart condition that is taken lightly or left untreated can be life-threatening.

Visit Dr. Philip L Berman at Memorial Cardiology Associates. Our doctor is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Cardiology, and his clinical interests include General Cardiology, arrhythmia management, and treatment of congestive heart failure. Dial (713) 464-6006 to reach out.

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