Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a relatively uncommon heart disease.

-- It is a disorder in which some of the heart muscle cells are abnormal and parts of the heart become much thicker than normal (hypertrophy).

-- The thickening isn't healthy as you might expect and can impede the passage of blood out of the heart. It also makes the heart stiffer than usual and this may affect blood flow into the heart so it doesn't fill as fast as it should.

-- It also affects electrical system in the heart and this can cause abnormal heart rhythms.

How do you get Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy?

In about a half of cases, it runs in families. The exact cause is not known.

How serious is Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy?

In many people with this disorder, they don't have any symptoms, because the degree of thickening is not marked. However, because it can affect the electrical signals in the heart it can produce abnormal heart rhythms called arrhythmias which can cause the heart to stop beating (cardiac arrest). This is serious and can be life- threatening. People who have close relatives with this disorder should be checked over by a doctor to make sure they don't have it themselves.

How long does Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy last?

The condition may go undetected for some time, possibly years because in some people it does not produce any symptoms for a long time. It can't be cured, but symptoms can be controlled or prevented from progressing to a worse state by use of drugs similar to those used to treat heart failure and drugs to keep the heart rhythm regular.

How is Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy treated?

The following medicines are used to treat cardiomyopathy:

-- Beta-blockers slow the heart beat and reduce its force of contraction by blocking the nerve signals within the heart that control the heart rhythm.

-- Some calcium-channel blockers improve the filling of the heart by reducing its stiffness. They do this by reducing calcium from entering the heart muscle since calcium is involved in muscle tone and contraction. This has the effect of reducing symptoms such as chest pain, breathlessness and palpitations because the heart can pump more blood around the body.

-- Antiarrhythmics help to prevent or alleviate abnormal heart rhythms and reduce the risks associated with these.