Did you know that some heart conditions will not display any noticeable symptoms, even if an individual was born with the condition? There are also many conditions that arise due to the natural ageing process that our bodies go through. Ageing effects almost every part of the body, so the heart is no less immune to the process and will begin to show signs of wear after many years of seemingly uninterrupted and efficient use. Both of these statements are true when it comes to hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy, a chronic condition that effects the thickness of the heart muscle.
In this post, we will explain what hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy is, and the ways in which it is treated. If you have a family history of hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy or if you are worried that you have any symptoms of hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy, you should see your doctor.
What Is Hypertrophic Obstructive Cardiomyopathy?
To summarise what hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy is, it is a condition that thickens your heart muscle or mycocardium, which interferes with the heart’s ability to pump blood around your body effectively. It can also be the cause of life-threatening heart rhythm disorders. It is most commonly caused by abnormal genes within the heart muscle, which cause the walls of the heart chamber or left ventricle to become thicker than normal. Over time, the thickened walls can become stiff, reducing the amount of blood taken in and pumped out with each heartbeat. As you can imagine, this can cause major complications to your overall health and leave you with lifelong issues. Abnormal heart rhythm problems can develop which cause debilitating symptoms and premature death without treatment.
The main symptoms of hypertrophic cardiopathy are:
- Shortness of breath, particularly during exercise
- Chest pain or pressure, both during exercise and when relaxing
- Heart palpitations
While hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy is mainly passed on by genetics, many people with the condition do not experience any symptoms and are generally able to live normal lives. For some, there may be no symptoms in the early stages, but may develop them over time. It is a chronic condition that can worsen as time goes on, but there are lifestyle changes that people can make to manage the symptoms.
Lifestyle Changes For Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
To reduce the effects of hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy symptoms and prevent any future issues caused by the disease, there are several lifestyle changes that people can make. Though this will not correct the condition, these changes can be used alongside medication to reduce the risk of complications. These lifestyle changes include:
- Maintaining a healthy diet
- Doing low-intensity physical activities
- Limiting alcohol intake
- Keeping weight at a healthy level
- Attending regular check-ups
While these lifestyle changes will not cure the disease, they will help to reduce any issues that you may experience with it and keep your heart feeling healthy.
How Is Hypertrophic Obtrusive Cardiomyopathy Diagnosed?
Testing methods for hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy have improved substantially over the years, as multiple new tests can determine a correct diagnosis in record time. The most common testing methods for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy are:
Physical exam – your doctor will listen for a heart murmur or palpitations. A history of sudden cardiac death in the family, or if another family member having been diagnosed with hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy requires that you should see a specialist for a genetic and cardiac screen.
Echocardiogram – an echocardiogram creates images of your heart by using sound waves, which will allow your doctor to look for any unusual movements.
Electrocardiogram – an electrocardiogram (ECG) is used to measure any electrical activity in your heart, and hypertrophic cardiopathy will cause abnormal results.
Cardiac MRI – this non-invasive heart screening method uses a magnetic field to produce detailed images of your heart.
There are several other ways to test the heart for hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy, but these are the most common methods. Your doctor may also suggest a Holter heart monitor (prolonged ECG monitoring of the heart beat) or cardiac cathetisation (insertion of monitoring catheters into the heart), and both are perfectly safe ways to test for the condition.
How Is Hypertrophic Obstructive Cardiomyopathy Treated?
Many physicians will begin to treat hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy with medications. These are used to control symptoms and sometimes to help with improving your long term health. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, these can range from Beta Blockers to Blood Thinners, as well as Heart Rhythm medications. If your symptoms are caused by the presence of a left ventricular outflow tract obstruction (where muscle in the heart blocks the flow of blood around the body) more invasive treatment with catheters or surgery may be required.
Surgery For Hypertrophic Obstructive Cardiomyopathy
If you have tried medication for your hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy and find that the condition is worsening, your doctor may suggest surgery. Any treatment of surgery should not be taken lightly, but it will only be recommended if your doctor feels that it was completely necessary. They may suggest septal myectomy, which is a form of surgery to remove part of the thickened muscle, or septal ablation, which uses alcohol to destroy part of the thickened heart muscle. These procedures can now be performed by keyhole techniques in appropriate patients. These treatments should be delivered by a team of individuals with interest and experience in the treatment of hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy. This team is a combination of specialist cardiologists, geneticists, and surgeons who work collaboratively to optimise your treatment.
Ventricular Catheter Ablation – In patients with dangerous heart rhythm problems, we can locate the origin of the problem and prevent further occurrence by passing a catheter into the heart to deliberately injure the heart muscle. This can be very effective in the correct patients.
Implantable Defibrillators (ICD) – In some patients with sinister heart rhythm problems, ablation is not possible and we have to consider the implantation of a defibrillator. These devices are inserted under the skin like a pacemaker and are designed to deliver a small shock to the heart in the event that you suffer a life-threatening heart rhythm problem. These devices are life-saving.
Hypertrophic Obstructive Cardiomyopathy essentials
If you have hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy you will need lifelong assessment by a specialist team. If you have a close family member who has been diagnosed with the condition, then you should discuss genetic and cardiac screening with you doctor. The treatment of hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy has improved considerably and modern surgical treatments can often be delivered by keyhole techniques. Contact us to arrange an assessment at The Keyhole Essex Heart Clinic.