Do you have “left ventricular hypertrophy”? How does that impact your life?

Left ventricular hypertrophy means thickened heart muscles.

Just like the muscles elsewhere in our body, our heart responds to stress and strain by building up mass.

Sometimes this is normal body response ( eg in highly trained athletes). At other times this happens because the heart has to pump against a lot of pressure ( for example when the blood pressure is too high or if you have sleep apnea).

Rarely this is inherited and the genes write code to build muscle mass up in the heart( a condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy).

So what’s wrong with “hypertrophy”? After all it is a stronger heart with lot of muscles, isn’t it?

Not quite true. After a certain point the heart loses its ability to relax. Instead of a stretchable and elastic balloon it becomes a rubber ball. When that happens, only be able to hold a small cup of blood, instead of a large glass. How does that impact your life?

When you exercise the heart needs to be able to handle larger volume of blood as the requirement for oxygen increases. When it can’t, the blood backs up in your lung making you short of breath. Slowly it can progress to problems at rest. This is a condition called diastolic heart failure. Larger muscle mass in the heart can cause heart rhythm problems from scarring.

The back pressure from a stiff lower chamber of the heart causes enlargement of top chamber of the heart and atrial fibrillation( a very common heart rhythm problem that increases risk of stroke).

What is the treatment?

Best treatment is prevention: maintaining ideal body weight, keeping blood pressure normal, exercising regularly and treating sleep apnea/ diabetes/high cholesterol.

What if it has already happened?

You can still partially ( or completely) reverse the process with above measures. If this is inherited you need to consult a medical professional, as the treatment is quite diverse, depending on situation.

Who should be screened?

If you have shortness of breath with activities or at rest, uncontrolled blood pressure, abnormal ECG or have family history of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

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