When Heart Disease is Genetic

Understanding Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

As a busy woman, maybe you’ve shrugged off symptoms that seem minor.

Fatigue? You tell yourself you’ll get to bed earlier tonight. Lightheadedness? Probably just because you skipped breakfast. Chest tightness? Must be anxiety. You make a mental note to download a meditation app.

But sometimes seemingly minor symptoms signal a major problem. Such is the case with a prevalent and dangerous condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

Recognizing Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

One in 250 people are affected by hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a genetic disorder which occurs when the heart muscle thickens, making it harder to pump blood. Many people go undiagnosed, however. That’s largely because the symptoms of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy often resemble symptoms of other diseases.

They can include:

  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Heart palpitations
  • Lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath

These symptoms in women are too often dismissed – or misdiagnosed as asthma, anxiety or panic attacks. In reality, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a heart condition that can be lethal, even leading to sudden cardiac death.

The Path to Diagnosis

Getting an accurate diagnosis typically requires screening. Doctors may use an electrocardiogram, an echocardiogram or a cardiac MRI.

Family history plays a role in hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. For that reason, doctors sometimes administer genetic testing to help detect the disease. If possible, talk to family members to learn if hypertrophic cardiomyopathy has impacted close relatives.

Defining the Path Forward

A diagnosis of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy often requires treatment. That could include:

  • Lifestyle changes
  • Prescription medication
  • Implantable cardiac defibrillators
  • Surgical procedures

Each woman’s treatment path will be specific to her, based upon conversations with a trusted doctor.

Putting Your Heart Health First

Whether it’s making lifestyle changes or recovering from surgery, living with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy requires emotional support. Being diagnosed with a heart condition can be difficult.

If you are that one in 250 with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, keep family and friends close. Accept offers of help so that you can put your own health first.

You might also encourage family members to get screened. It’s never too early to prioritize heart health by looking for the signs and talking with a trusted doctor.

Additional resources are available from our partner organizations, the Partnership to Advance Cardiovascular Health and the Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Association.

This post was written in partnership with the Partnership to Advance Cardiovascular Health

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