Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy: frequently asked questions

Written by: Dr Gosia Wamil
Edited by: Aoife Maguire

When it comes to heart conditions, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a lesser-known but significant concern. HCM is a genetic heart disorder that affects the structure of the heart muscle, potentially leading to various health issues. Renowned consultant cardiologist Dr Malgorzata Wamil answers your frequently asked questions about the condition.




What is Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)?


Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a heart condition characterised by the abnormal thickening of the heart muscle, particularly the left ventricle. This thickening makes it harder for the heart to pump blood effectively, which can lead to a range of complications.


What are the principal causes of HCM?


HCM is primarily caused by genetic mutations that affect the proteins responsible for muscle contraction in the heart. These mutations lead to the excessive growth of heart muscle cells, resulting in the thickening of the heart wall. While it is primarily a genetic condition, the severity of symptoms can vary widely among affected individuals.


What are the main symptoms of HCM?


The symptoms of HCM can vary from person to person, and some individuals may not experience any symptoms at all. However, common symptoms include:


  • Shortness of breath: difficulty in breathing, especially during physical activity.
  • Chest pain or discomfort: due to reduced blood flow to the heart.
  • Fatigue: feeling excessively tired, even with minimal physical exertion.
  • Fainting or dizziness: these episodes may occur, particularly during exercise.
  • Heart palpitations: rapid or irregular heartbeat sensations.


Is HCM Hereditary? What is the genetic component?


Yes, HCM is often hereditary. It is passed down through families due to genetic mutations. If one of your parents has HCM, you have a 50% chance of inheriting the genetic mutation. Genetic testing can help identify individuals at risk.


Can HCM be prevented?


As a genetic condition, HCM cannot be prevented in the traditional sense. However, early detection through genetic testing and regular cardiac check-ups can help manage the condition effectively and prevent complications.


What are the treatment options for HCM?


Treatment for HCM aims to alleviate symptoms, reduce the risk of complications, and improve heart function. Treatment options may include:


  • Medications: beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, and other medications can help manage symptoms and prevent complications.
  • Surgery: in severe cases, surgical procedures like septal myectomy or alcohol septal ablation may be necessary to remove excess heart muscle.
  • Implantable devices: some individuals may benefit from devices like implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) to manage irregular heart rhythms.



While hypertrophic cardiomyopathy cannot be prevented, early detection, regular medical check-ups, and adherence to treatment and lifestyle changes (reducing the intensity and level of exercise) can allow individuals with HCM to have a normal life span. If you suspect you may have HCM or have a family history of the condition, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional for a thorough evaluation and guidance.






If you are concerned about a heart condition and would like to book a consultation with Dr Wamil, simply visit her Top Doctors profile today.

By Dr Gosia Wamil

Dr Malgorzata (Gosia) Wamil, PhD is an Oxford-trained, internationally recognised consultant cardiologist. She practices at the world-renowned Mayo Clinic Healthcare in London and the Manor Hospital in Oxford. Her clinical specialities are heart failure and the precise application of non-invasive cardiac imaging techniques, including cardiovascular MRIcardiac CT, and advanced echocardiography (trans-oesophageal echocardiography, bubble echocardiography, contrast echocardiography, 3D echocardiography, and stress echo).
Dr Wamil’s extensive expertise has been honed through years of dedicated practice and specialized training, with patients frequently asking her for a second opinion. Dr Wamil pursued comprehensive cardiology training at the Oxford University Hospitals between 2008 and 2017. This rigorous program encompassed fellowships in cardiovascular medicine, advanced cardiac imaging, heart failure and cardiomyopathies. During this period, Dr. Wamil earned internationally recognised accreditations in echocardiography, cardiac CT, and cardiac magnetic resonance, showcasing her commitment to excellence. She has received multiple awards for her academic excellence, including fellowships and grants from esteemed organizations like the British Heart Foundation, the European Association of Cardiovascular Imaging and the European Society of Cardiology.
Acknowledged for her academic excellence, Dr. Wamil has been honoured with multiple awards, fellowships, and grants from esteemed organizations such as the British Heart Foundation, the European Association of Cardiovascular Imaging, and the European Society of Cardiology. Her research journey spans the spectrum, from fundamental science and drug development (MSc and PhD in Cardiovascular Science, University of Edinburgh 2005-2008), to pioneering proof-of-concept studies employing imaging techniques (British Heart Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Oxford 2016-2017) and randomized clinical trials (MSc in Clinical Trials, University of Oxford 2022-2024).

Dr. Wamil is known for her cardiac MRI, CT, and advanced echocardiography expertise and is often able to combine them in ways that are transformational in the treatment of complex cardiovascular cases. Actively participating in the European Association of Cardiovascular Imaging, she holds a distinguished role as a member of the prestigious Leaders of Tomorrow Programme. This involvement allows her to be pivotal in organizing international teaching courses and setting standards for operating cardiac imaging departments across Europe. Her dedication to education extends to imparting knowledge and expertise to aspiring medical students and junior doctors through diverse teaching platforms and programs. 
In her clinical practice, Dr. Wamil excels with a uniquely effective human-centric and holistic approach to medicine with patients. Her expertise, however, extends well beyond the hands-on practice.
She holds the esteemed position of Honorary Senior Researcher Fellow in the Deep Medicine Department at the University of Oxford, actively contributing to ground-breaking research. As a Diabetes Pharma Committee Member at the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), she co-authored national guidelines for managing heart disease in people with diabetes. In recognition of Dr. Wamil's scientific contribution, she holds the title of Fellow of the European Society of Cardiology and is a member of several medical organisations such as the Royal College of Physicians, British Society of Echocardiography, and European Society of Cardiovascular Imaging and the European Heart Association.

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