How Can This Disease "Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy" Cause Sudden Death?
We were all shocked by the video of the young healthy man who had a heart attack at the gym after finishing his exercises, he looked alright until suddenly he had the attack and died!
Unfortunately no one was near him and he wasn’t educated about what to do in such cases.
That is the reason we are talking about that topic, Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a hidden bump that may explode anytime and without proper understanding it could be the last minutes of your life.
What is Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy is a genetic disease; So if one of your parents had it there is a 50% chance that you may have it too; that’s why you need a regular checkup on your heart functions especially if you are doing heavy exercise or you are a teenager because that is when you are at the peak of danger and you need to check up your heart at least once per year.
But if you are not within this prone category you may need to check your heart every 5 years.
In a simple way Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy is a case where part of your heart muscle is enlarged hence, the normal contraction and pumping procedure is defected as the heart become imbalanced affecting the pressure inside it, and symptoms are in a direct relationship with the size of the enlarged part; That’s why some patients may feel almost nothing and some of them may suffer from all the symptoms even comma and sudden death if they exerted themselves.
Symptoms of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
- Accelerated heart rate.
- Breathing difficulty and chest tightness.
- Heart murmur (only detected by electrocardiogram ECG).
A patient may suffer from one or more of these symptoms especially after making an effort, and that’s why he should pay extra attention to his routine check up.
Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy complications
What if the patients didn’t care or neglected the follow up?
Complications of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy is fatal, and it includes serious conditions that needs excessive care when dealing with it like:
- Ventricular fibrillation which is an irregular heart beat (arrhythmia) that affects the ventricle and decreases the blood flow to it leading to organ or brain damage if it wasn’t fast treated.
- Heart enlargement which is a critical case where the heart can’t do it’s probably function leading to breath difficulty and coma.
- Dilated cardiomyopathy which is a similar case with a few differences that we will discuss in the next paragraph.
- Heart failure which leads to death.
To clear the confusion between Dilated Cardiomyopathy and Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy let's start from the diagnosis.
Dilated cardiomyopathy means that the left ventricle is enlarged that the walls of the ventricle becomes really thin and fragile, while it should be the strongest part of the heart as it pumps the blood to the whole body; so as you expect the blood flow to the body is now reduced so any extra exercise is a huge load on the heart and symptoms easily are detected with exercise which we can list in:
- Continuous exhaustion.
- Chest pain and tightness while resting and exercising.
- Lower leg edema.
- Increased heart beats leading to arrhythmia.
- Heart murmur which is detected by electrocardiography (ECG).
Also a major difference between Dilated Cardiomyopathy and Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy is the cause, as Dilated Cardiomyopathy may results from extra weight, severe anxiety, diabetes type 2 ,the last months of pregnancy especially if the mother has hypertension and hemochromatosis (high iron concentration in blood and tissues).
There is another type of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy which is named (Takotsubo cardiomyopathy)
It also may be called the broken heart hypertrophy, it is a temporary condition when the patient faces a rough time either physically, mentally or emotionally, then suffers from typical angina symptoms for a few days and sometimes even weeks and it is reversible. Good news!
Treatment of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
There is no definite cure for the condition yet, but we need to state the patient and avoid any complications; so doctors make a plan to control the whole heart beating process by:
- Reduce the cardiac output: by beta blockers and antiplatelets medications to reduce the risk of arrhythmia and ventricular defibrillation.
- Open heart surgery: by removing the enlarged tissue either from the muscles or the walls and once this procedure is done all symptoms disappear!
- Implanter cardioverter defibrillator(ICD): it is an implantable device attached to the heart and whenever the heart stops it shocks the heart to revive it.
First Aid to survive a hypertrophic cardiomyopathy attack
1- Call the emergency number or reach the nearest hospital.
2- Chew aspirin then swallow it.
3- Put one nitroglycerin tablet under your tongue ( only if it is prescribed to you by your physician).
4- Perform Cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if you were aware and authorized to do it.
Finally you should know that you are not alone and Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy is not the end of the world. It only needs proper care and regular check up and following a healthy lifestyle.
So pay a lot of attention and listen to your heart!