When your heart's too thick to work well



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Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

When your heart's too thick to work well

Some people with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy might not even be aware they have the condition as they don’t experience any significant health problems.



Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a genetic heart disease that occurs in one in 500 people.

People with this condition have an abnormal arrangement of heart muscle cells, which is usually caused by gene mutations that make the heart grow abnormally thick.

This makes it more difficult for the heart to pump blood.

In some cases, those with the condition might not even be aware that they have it.


Mayo Clinic cardiologist Dr Steve Ommen, who specialises in this disease, says that shortness of breath or chest pain, especially during exercise, are common symptoms.

“It’s important to first point out that it’s completely compatible with a normal life span and a normal quality of life,” he says.

“There are risky things we need to look out for, but that really affects the minority of people.”

Many people with the disease won’t have any significant health problems.

But there are cases that require treatment.

“The first thing we do is some risk assessment to make sure patients aren’t at high risk for dangerous heart rhythms, in which case we might consider offering them an implantable defibrillator device to serve as a safety net,” he explains.

If a patient has symptoms that affect quality of life, the disease is treated with medications.

Surgery or other procedures may also be necessary in some cases.

“We can mechanically thin down the heart muscle where it’s getting in the way of blood flow, either through a catheter-based procedure or with a well-established surgical procedure called surgical septal myectomy,” says Dr Ommen



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