Check Your Health: What is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)?

KUTV HCM heart 082317.JPG
What is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)?

(KUTV) Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute’s new Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Center has been named a national center of excellence by the HCM Association of America. This is good news for Utahns because one in 500 people are affected by HCM. Mary Nickles introduces us to one man who diagnosed with the heart condition.

For several years, Mark Seastrand suffered from frequent dizzy spells and would often faint.

“I had these episodes where I’d just kind of start to feel light headed and feel faint and then lose consciousness and then wake up and be kind of back to normal really,” says Mark.

Then, while on a family vacation in Florida, he made a quick stop at Walmart. That’s when the simple act of pushing a shopping cart landed him in the hospital.

“I don’t know what hit me. The next thing I know, I’m flat on my back,” says Mark.

Diagnosed with a skull fracture and bleeding in the brain, doctors wanted to not only treat his injuries, they wanted to figure out why this happened. After running several tests they concluded Mark had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or HCM.

HCM is the most common genetic heart condition and is believed to be the number one cause of sudden death in young athletes.

“Most people will probably manifest in their teenage years and twenties and thirties, but there are definitely people who first see it in their forties, fifties, and sixties,” says Dr. Kia Afshar with Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute.

With hypertrophic cardiomyopathy your heart isn’t working as efficiently as it should. This causes the muscles of the heart to work harder, building up the number of cells in the heart and causing the walls to thicken.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy can sometimes be difficult to recognize because symptoms vary from person to person. Signs of HCM can be anything from chest pain to shortness of breath or, in Mark’s case, fainting.

“Every single time he exercised, the valve would get really close to the wall that was thick and block blood flow to the rest of the body. Once blood flow is being blocked, the first organ that doesn’t like that is your brain,” says Dr. Afshar.

For Mark, a diagnoses of HCM meant both surgery and medication. However, he says today because of these treatments he feels much better.

“I still have to be careful and I still have to be conscientious of what I’m doing, but it’s a relief,” says Mark.

Dr. Afshar says if a family member has HCM or if someone in your family died suddenly at a young age, it’s important to get tested and find out whether or not you have it. That way you can treat it with available help such as medication, surgery, or other interventions.

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