Left Ventricular Hypertrophy

The main pumping chamber of our heart is left ventricle. When the walls of this chamber are enlarged or thickened, the condition is referred as left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH). You may develop left ventricular hypertrophy in response to factors such as uncontrolled blood pressure, increased workload to the heart, or sometimes the size of the chamber increases itself. Left ventricular hypertrophy increases your risk for a heart attack and stroke.

You may reverse the left ventricular hypertrophy and alleviate your symptoms by controlling or managing your blood pressure.

Causes

Heart muscle gets enlarged when there is an overload of work. The most common causes of LVH are hypertension, athletic hypertrophy, valve disease, congenital heart disease, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

Risk factors

Other than hypertension and aortic valve stenosis, there are several other factors that may also increase your risk of developing LVH:

  • Age: aging may increase your risk of developing LVH
  • Weight: overweight increases high blood pressure and risk of LVH
  • Genetics: Few genetic conditions are associated with developing LVH
  • Gender: women are more likely to develop LVH than men

Symptoms

Left ventricular hypertrophy does not show any symptoms in some people. It develops gradually. During the early stages, there may not be any signs, but as it progresses you may experience:

  • Fatigue
  • Palpitations
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Chest pain on stress

When to call a doctor?

Call your doctor immediately if you experience difficulty in breathing, chest pain that lasts for more than few minute, recurring lightheadedness or loss of consciousness.

Complications

In the case of left ventricular hypertrophy, the functioning of the heart is changed along with the structure. As a result, your heart gets weakened, loses its elasticity, compresses the blood vessels of the chambers and finally restricts the blood supply. As a result, there may be arrhythmias, atrial fibrillations, ischemic heart disease, aortic root dilation, and sudden cardiac arrest.

Diagnosis

Your doctor would first start with a thorough medical history review, and performs the physical examination including checking your blood pressure and heart’s function. Your doctor would then order for an electrocardiogram (EKG) to record the electrical signals of your heart if your doctor finds any abnormalities in the way your heart functions then he/she would order for an electrocardiogram (ECG)

ECG reveals if there is any thickening in the left ventricle. It also detects the abnormalities in the blood flow, heartbeat. Later MRI scan is ordered to diagnose the left ventricular hypertrophy.

Treatment

The main goal of treatment depends on the cause of the condition,

If it is a hypertensive LVH, then the treatment mainly focuses on reducing your blood pressure. Your doctor would recommend lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, low-sodium diet, smoking cessation, etc. Your doctor may also prescribe blood pressure lowering agents that help in the prevention of further enlargement of the heart.

Athletic hypertrophy does not require treatment. Your doctor would ask you to stop exercising for 3 to 6 months. During this period, your doctor would order for another ECG to measure the thickness of heart muscle.

In hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, your doctor would recommend surgery. In the case of aortic valve stenosis, your doctor would perform surgery to repair the blocked or narrow valves or he/she may replace the valve with an artificial or tissue valve.

Lifestyle changes

These simple lifestyle changes can help lower your blood pressure and alleviate the symptoms of left ventricular hypertrophy.

  • Weight management
  • Reduced intake of salt in diet
  • Limited or no intake of alcohol
  • Regular exercise or any form of physical activity