What Is Thickening of the Heart Walls?


Quick Answer

Thickening of the heart muscle is a medical condition due to mutations in the heart muscle proteins, high blood pressure, aging or thyroid conditions. In some cases, doctors do not know the cause. The medical name of the condition is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, explains the American Heart Association.

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Full Answer

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy affects men and women of any age. One in 500 people has this condition, according to estimates by the American Heart Association. In young athletes, the condition is a common cause of sudden cardiac arrest.

With this condition, the overall size of the heart remains the same, although the cells that form the muscle enlarge and thicken the walls, reports the American Heart Association. The thickened muscle sometimes obstructs the flow of blood from the chambers of the heart. In other patients, the dividing wall between the ventricles thickens and bulges to block blood flow. This increases the force required to pump blood to the body and causes symptoms including dizziness, fainting and shortness of breath.

Some people with thickening of the walls of the heart display no symptoms. However, heavy physical activity may cause arrhythmia or sudden cardiac arrest, notes the American Heart Association. Working closely with a doctor is essential in determining the amount of physical activity safe for a patient dealing with this condition.

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