Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is an inherited
disease of your heart muscle, where the muscle wall of your heart
It is a genetic condition caused by a change
or mutation in one or more genes and is passed on through families.
Each child of someone with HCM has a 50 per cent chance of
inheriting the condition.
About 1 in 500 of the UK population has the
condition, although most people who have it have few symptoms.
How does it affect my heart?
If you have HCM, the muscular wall of your heart - the myocardium
- becomes thickened, making the heart muscle stiff.
This thickening makes it harder for your heart
to pump blood out of your heart and around your body.
How thick your muscle is, and how much of your
muscle is affected, varies from one person to another. The left ventricle (one of your heart's four
chambers) is almost always affected, and in some people the muscle
of the right ventricle also thickens.
What are the symptoms?
Common symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Light headedness and
You may find that you never
have any serious problems related to your condition, and with
treatment, your symptoms should be controlled. However some people
may find that their symptoms worsen or become harder to control in
The area of heart muscle that
is affected by HCM and the amount of stiffening that occurs will
determine how the symptoms affect you.
For some people, a number of
other conditions can develop as a result of having HCM. These may
How is HCM diagnosed?
The most common tests for cardiomyopathy are an ECG, which records the electrical activity of
your heart, and an echocardiogram which
show the pumping action of your heart.
Your doctor may also arrange for you to have an exercise test, angiogram or MRI
How is HCM treated?
At present there is no cure for HCM, but
treatments are available to help control your symptoms and prevent
complications. Your treatment will depend on how your heart is
affected and what symptoms you have.
You may need:
- Medicines – to help control your
blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms or other symptoms you may
- A Pacemaker – to control your heart
- An ICD – if you are at risk of
having a life threatening abnormal heart rhythm.
How will HCM affect me?
Research has shown that, with proper treatment
and follow-up, most people with the condition live a normal
However, because there is a very small risk of getting a
life-threatening abnormal heart rhythm,
a small number of people with HCM are at risk of sudden cardiac death. It’s important to discuss
this risk with your doctor, who may offer medication or advise that
you need to have an ICD fitted if you
are at an increased risk.
You may have to make some small changes to
your lifestyle, such as avoiding competitive sports, but you should
be able to continue to work and drive a car for example
However, you will not be able to drive an HGV
or commercial passenger vehicle and you may have to reconsider
manual jobs which involve strenuous activity.
Your donations help support the work of
BHF Professor Hugh Watkins
, who has led the way in finding the
genetic mutations that cause HCM, meaning that more people with the
condition can be screened and diagnosed.
For more information
BHF Genetic Information Service on 0300 456
8383 to speak to one of our specialist nurses for
information about inherited heart conditions and how they can
affect you and your family.
For more information and advice about living
with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy,
download or order our booklet.