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Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a genetically transmitted disease that directly affects the heart muscle. Because of several high–profile cases of young athletes dying suddenly of HCM, it is more commonly known as a disease of athletes.

However, this disease can affect anyone – men, women, and children of all ages – regardless of their physical condition. Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy is the second most common form of cardiomyopathy, occurring in roughly 0.2% of the general population. The risk of sudden death from Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy is 2–3% per year. Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy is characterized by an abnormal thickening of the walls of the heart. Some thickening is normal for healthy persons who exercise or who play competitive sports. In Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, however, the thickening becomes extreme. In some patients with HCM, the septum, which separates the left and right sides of the heart, bulges into the left ventricle. Muscles in both ventricles often become enlarged, and these thickened muscle walls may partially block the flow of blood through the aortic valve or prevent the heart from stretching properly and filling with blood. In a small percentage of HCM patients, the mitral valve separating the left atrial and ventricular chambers may also be damaged or may stick to the septum, which causes an obstruction to blood flow through the valve.

Causes of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
A hereditary link has been established for this form of cardiomyopathy. In about half the cases, the person has inherited an abnormal gene from a parent, in the rest of the cases, a gene that is normal at birth later mutates. Fortunately, a genetic test can identify who may be at risk for HCM. Using the results of this test, doctors can warn children at risk to avoid extra exertion and refrain from participating in certain competitive sports. Other causes for HCM have been traced to hypertension and heart valve disease.

Symptoms of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
Fainting during strenuous exercise is often the first and most dramatic symptom of this disease. Other symptoms (if they occur) are shortness of breath, chest pain, and fatigue. Persons who experience these warning signs should seek immediate medical attention. Young athletic adults who die of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy usually die before they are diagnosed with the condition. Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy also may be more difficult to diagnose in athletes because it is similar to a benign condition called left ventricular hypertrophy, an enlargement of the left ventricle that often develops in association with strenuous physical conditioning. Anyone – young or old – who wants to participate in strenuous athletic competition should have a thorough physical exam that includes an Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) and chest X–ray.

Diagnosis of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Treatment of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
Often the treatment for this condition address the symptoms rather than the disease itself. Treatments include lifestyle changes, medication, and surgery. For patients with mild to moderate symptoms, drug therapy is often the treatment of choice. Drug therapy does not work in all cases, especially in patients with more severe symptoms. Adverse side–effects from drug therapy may include fluid in the lungs and low blood pressure. In some cases, drug therapy may cause sudden death.

Surgery for Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
In Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy patients with severe heart damage, surgical repair is recommended Lifestyle changes
Patients with serious electrical and blood–flow abnormalities must stay less physically active. Children and young adults who have been genetically determined to be at risk for HCM should avoid strenuous exercise or certain types of athletic competition.