Heart Health

Advances in managing hypertrophic cardiomyopathy

There's reassuring news about exercise as well as a new, first-in-class drug for people with this inherited heart muscle disease.

By , Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

About one in 500 people has a condition that affects muscle cells in the heart, causing the walls of the heart to thicken and enlarge (see illustration). Called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), it's often caused by genetic mutations and is the most common inherited form of heart disease, although many people have never heard of it. And among those who are familiar with HCM, misconceptions and unwarranted worry about the condition are common.

"Until recently, HCM was feared as the most common cause of sudden cardiac death in young athletes," says Dr. Carolyn Ho, medical director of the Cardiovascular Genetics Center at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital. However, newer, more comprehensive research involving the general population, college athletes, and military recruits shows that while HCM remains an important underlying cause of sudden cardiac death in otherwise seemingly healthy individuals, it's not the most common one. The exact reasons for these rare but devastating events often remain a mystery, even after an autopsy.

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About the Author

photo of Julie Corliss

Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

Julie Corliss is the executive editor of the Harvard Heart Letter. Before working at Harvard, she was a medical writer and editor at HealthNews, a consumer newsletter affiliated with The New England Journal of Medicine. She … See Full Bio
View all posts by Julie Corliss

About the Reviewer

photo of Christopher P. Cannon, MD

Christopher P. Cannon, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Heart Letter; Editorial Advisory Board Member, Harvard Health Publishing

Dr. Christopher P. Cannon is editor in chief of the Harvard Heart Letter. He is a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and senior physician in the Preventive Cardiology section of the Cardiovascular Division at … See Full Bio
View all posts by Christopher P. Cannon, MD

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