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Several serious conditions or complications can develop if hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is not properly identified or managed. These include:

  • Blocked blood flow out of the heart: You may feel short of breath, dizzy, or have fainting spells or chest pain. If blood can’t easily leave the heart, it may prevent the mitral valve from closing. Blood can leak backward into the left atrium (mitral valve regurgitation).
  • Heart failure: This can happen when the thickened muscle becomes so enlarged and stiff that 1) the heart can’t relax and fill with enough blood or 2) becomes weak and can’t pump well enough to meet your body’s needs.
  • Blood clots: These can form in the heart because blood isn’t moving through the heart very well.
  • Dangerous, rapid heart rhythms (arrythmias): Ventricular tachycardia or atrial fibrillation, for example, may occur because the structural changes in the heart muscle can alter the heart’s electrical system that keeps the heart beating at a steady pace.
  • Sudden cardiac death in rare cases: Many don’t know they have HCM. Sometimes, sudden cardiac death is the first sign. While rare, it can happen in people who seem healthy, including young athletes and other active adults.
  • Infections of the heart valve (endocarditis)

Learning that you or a family member has HCM is the first step to stay as healthy as possible.