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Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (say "hy-per-TROH-fik kar-dee-oh-my-AWP-uh-thee") happens when the heart muscle grows too thick, so the heart gets bigger and its chambers get smaller. Many people have no symptoms and live a normal life with few problems. But in some people with this condition:
People who exercise often and hard may have changes in their heart muscle that can be confused with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This condition is called athlete's heart syndrome. It is harmless. When an athlete stops training, the heart will return to a normal size.
Certain genes cause the heart to grow more than it should.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the most common genetic disease of the heart. This means it runs in families. About 1 in 500 adults has this condition.footnote 1
You are at risk for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy if either of your parents or a brother or sister has it or died suddenly at a young age. Talk to your doctor about getting tested.
You may not have any symptoms. Or you might:
A rapid or irregular heartbeat or fainting spells are signs of an arrhythmia, which makes sudden death more likely.
Your doctor will do a physical exam and ask you about any health problems you've had and about any family history of heart disease or early and sudden death. You may need tests such as:
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 you are at low risk for sudden death, you may not need to see your doctor often. But you will need a checkup anytime your symptoms change or get worse.
Many people who have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy don't have symptoms and don't need treatment. If you do have symptoms, your treatment will depend on what your symptoms are and whether you develop heart failure or an abnormal heart rhythm.
Learning about hypertrophic cardiomyopathy:
Living with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy:
CitationsOmmen SR, et al. (2011). Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. In V Fuster et al., eds., Hurst's The Heart, 13th ed., vol. 1, pp. 817-864. New York: McGraw-Hill.Other Works ConsultedFifer MA, Vlahakes GJ (2008). Management of symptoms in hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Circulation, 117(3): 429-439.Gersh BJ, et al. (2011). 2011 ACCF/AHA guideline for the diagnosis and treatment of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy: A report of the American College of Cardiology Foundation/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation, 124(24): e783-e831.Ho CY (2012). Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in 2012. Circulation, 125(11): 1432-1438.Maron BJ, et al. (2015). Eligibility and disqualification recommendations for competitive athletes with cardiovascular abnormalities: Task Force 3: Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy and other cardiomyopathies, and myocarditis. Circulation, 132(22): e273-e280. DOI: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000239. Accessed April 7, 2017.Maron BJ, Olivotto I (2015). Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. In DL Mann et al., eds., Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine, 10th ed., vol. 2, pp. 1574-1588. Philadelphia: Saunders.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineMartin J. Gabica, MD - Family MedicineElizabeth T. Russo, MD - Internal MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerGeorge Philippides, MD - Cardiology
Current as ofJune 2, 2017
Current as of: June 2, 2017
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine & Elizabeth T. Russo, MD - Internal Medicine & George Philippides, MD - Cardiology
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