Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a genetic condition that can affect the structure and function of the heart. However, people with HCM can typically expect to live a relatively typical life.

HCM is a genetic condition that occurs due to a variation in a gene that codes for a protein affecting the heart muscles. This causes a person living with HCM to have an atypically thicker left ventricular wall. The ventricles are the two lower chambers of the heart, which receive blood and then pump it to the rest of the body.

When a person has a thicker ventricular wall, it can make it harder for the heart to pump blood out of the heart and around the body. This can cause symptoms such as fatigue, dyspnea, chest pain, palpitations, and syncope.

A person with HCM will generally have a typical life expectancy, especially if they follow a heart-healthy lifestyle. However, a small number of people are at risk for major complications, including sudden death and heart failure.

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Generally, the outlook for people living with HCM is positive. Most individuals can expect to live a relatively typical life without major complications. This is particularly true if a person follows a heart-healthy lifestyle. This involves staying active, having a healthy dietary pattern, maintaining a moderate healthy weight, getting sufficient sleep, and avoiding smoking.

However, a small number of people are at risk for major complications, including sudden death and heart failure. Researchers report mortality rates of 1–4% in those living with HCM, but these numbers have greatly improved in the past two decades.

The risk of getting these complications can vary depending on the person’s genetics, overall health, and lifestyle practices. Therefore, it is important to identify risk factors and seek preventive treatment.

HCM is a genetic condition, and as such, it sometimes runs in families. Individuals with a biological parent living with HCM may have a 50% risk of developing the condition. Therefore, it is advisable to be aware of family history.

Although HCM is a genetic disorder, there are several factors that can increase the risk of its development. These include:

People with HCM can experience a range of complications. This can include:

  • Atrial fibrillation: This is a common irregular heart rhythm, which is known as arrhythmia. It causes the heart to beat atypically due to the thickened walls, which can cause changes to the cardiac tissues.
  • Blocked blood flow: With increased thickness of the heart walls, blood leaving the heart may become blocked, decreasing blood flow.
  • Endocarditis: People with HCM are at an increased risk of endocarditis, which refers to inflammation of the heart lining.
  • Cardiac arrest: HCM can cause heart-related sudden death in people of all ages.
  • Heart failure: The thickened heart walls can make it difficult to pump enough blood around the body, and as a result, people may experience heart failure.
  • Mitral valve regurgitation: This condition causes blood to leak back into the heart.
  • Dilated cardiomyopathy: This condition occurs when the heart chambers enlarge and lose their ability to contract.
  • Syncope: Also known as fainting, this occurs when a person loses consciousness for a short time, likely due to reduced blood flow.

Currently, a doctor will decide on the treatment strategies for HCM using observational data and a person’s clinical history. However, there are several treatment approaches, including pharmaceutical and surgical techniques.

Medications for HCM may include negative inotropic agents, including beta-blockers, nondihydropyridine calcium channel blockers, disopyramide, and diuretics.

Surgical options include:

  • left ventricular myectomy
  • mitral valve replacement
  • pacemaker implantation
  • placement of an implantable cardioverter defibrillator
  • heart transplant, though doctors usually recommend this where medical and surgical treatments are ineffective

There are several measures a person may take to reduce their risk of complications. These may include:

  • maintaining a moderate weight
  • maintaining a balanced diet, and avoiding saturated and trans fat
  • quitting smoking, if applicable
  • reducing alcohol intake
  • reducing salt intake
  • reducing stress
  • managing underlying conditions such as diabetes
  • incorporating physical activity

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a genetic condition that causes the muscles of the heart to thicken. This can cause stiffness and changes in the heart structure, which can lead to a variety of complications. These complications may include arrhythmias, cardiac arrest, heart failure, and blocked blood flow.

The goal of treatment for HCM is to prevent the progression of disease, manage underlying conditions that can contribute to the condition, reduce complications, and control symptoms. Several pharmaceutical and surgical treatment options help achieve these.

A person with HCM can typically expect to live a typical life. It is advisable for a person living with HCM to take preventive measures and make lifestyle modifications, such as maintaining a moderate weight and quitting smoking.