Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a cardiovascular disease that can affect people of any age. This condition causes the wall of the heart to become abnormally thick, which makes it harder for the heart to pump blood. In rare cases, the thick, stiff muscle causes the heart to beat too quickly and erratically which is dangerous and can result in death.

What is Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)?

It is estimated that about 1 in 500 people are affected by HCM, but most people with HCM have few or no symptoms and are therefore unaware that they have a problem. Others develop heart conditions that may decrease the quality or length of life. HCM is the most common cause of sudden cardiac death in young, otherwise healthy athletes. Often these athletes had no symptoms of HCM before they died and therefore the condition went undiagnosed.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is typically inherited, so if your parents have the condition there’s a 50% chance you’ll have it, too.  If you have any first-degree relatives who have HCM (parents, siblings, children), you should be screened for the condition. An echocardiogram is the most common test used to diagnose HCM.

There’s also a chance that your relatives have HCM and don’t know it themselves because they have no symptoms or complications from the disease. So if you have any of these telltale signs, talk to your doctor about whether you should be screened:

  • Shortness of breath, especially during or after exercise
  • Chest pain during or after exercise
  • Fainting or dizziness during or after exercise
  • Heart palpitations, or a feeling of a racing heart or pounding heart in your chest

Find a Heart Specialist Near You
Call (716) 706-2113

Find a Heart Specialist Near You
Call (716) 706-2113

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Date Last Reviewed: April 26, 2018

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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