Myocardial Hypertrophy Overview

Myocardial Hypertrophy

Cardiac muscle hypertrophy is a disease that occurs in both humans and animals and is colloquially referred to as athlete ‘s heart.

What is myocardial hypertrophy?

According to, myocardial hypertrophy is an anomaly of the heart that affects its anatomy and how it works. In medical circles, heart muscle hypertrophy is understood to mean a so-called compensatory enlargement of the heart muscle.

This primarily relates to the ventricular myocardium. The heart muscle increases in mass and size in cardiac muscle hypertrophy. In practice, a distinction is made between myocardial atrophy in the form of an eccentric or a concentric enlargement of the heart muscle, which has different causes.

Myocardial hypertrophy affects the entire cardiovascular system. In addition, both healthy and sick people suffer from cardiac muscle hypertrophy. Under certain conditions, cardiac muscle hypertrophy is one of the non-pathological increases in volume of the heart.


The causes of cardiac muscle hypertrophy are complex. However, they can be understood as a response of the organism to an additional burden due to increased physical stress. This results from the compulsion of the heart to compensate for the increased performance requirements of the cardiovascular system.

One of the most important causes that lead to cardiac muscle hypertrophy is competitive sport. A so-called pressure hypertension, which results from an increasing load on the ventricles, for example due to high blood pressure, also contributes to the development of cardiac muscle hypertrophy. The pressure hypertension can be present in the right ventricle and be caused by a lung disease or pulmonary valve stenosis.

In addition, left ventricular pressure hypertension (increased pressure in the blood vessels) is also one of the causes of cardiac muscle hypertrophy. This in turn is based on a stenosis of the aortic valves or high blood pressure in the arteries.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

Cardiac muscle hypertrophy is initially noticeable through shortness of breath and cardiovascular problems, which develop over a period of several weeks, months or even years. A typical symptom is also angina pectoris. Chest tightness manifests as discomfort behind the breastbone, often with a dull, throbbing pain, burning, and pressure.

Shortness of breath and dizziness often occur. The pain can radiate to the shoulders, neck, back, stomach and jaw. In the course of myocardial hypertrophy, cardiac arrhythmias and finally cardiac insufficiency set in. Many patients complain about signs of heart failure, i.e. gasping, difficulty breathing and reduced exercise capacity.

In general, the risk of a heart attack is increased. Myocardial hypertrophy manifests itself primarily through heart symptoms that occur gradually and are usually chronic. If treated early, the symptoms subside after a few weeks or months.

If the disease is not treated, it can be fatal. Before that, a thickening of the heart muscle develops, which eventually leads to a heart attack. As a result of the rather negative general prognosis, many sufferers develop anxiety, depressive moods and other mental illnesses, which further impair their quality of life and well-being.

Diagnosis & History

If myocardial hypertrophy is left untreated, complications can occur, which are shown by an increased risk of heart attack or a loss of function of the heart.

In order to prevent these risks in good time, various diagnostic procedures are important, which are based in particular on advanced medical-technical devices. In addition, the specialist is also able to precisely identify cardiac muscle hypertrophy through visual assessment of the patient, listening to the heart and lungs, palpation and laboratory-based examinations.

In order to be able to clearly show this reaction of the heart to permanent stress as cardiac muscle hypertrophy, an ultrasound-assisted examination of the heart can be considered as a further diagnostic measure. In addition, the technical conditions exist to diagnose cardiac muscle hypertrophy using magnetic resonance imaging. In principle, the onset of pathological myocardial hypertrophy is always insidious, so that the symptoms are only noticed gradually.


In the first place, heart muscle hypertrophy leads to a strong thickening of the heart muscle. As a result, various heart problems can develop, which in the worst case can lead to the death of the patient. In most cases, this leads to heart failure, which can be life-threatening if left untreated.

The risk of a heart attack is also increased by cardiac muscle hypertrophy and gasping usually occurs. The heart is weakened and the patient is usually only slightly resilient. Those affected often feel ill and unwell and no longer actively participate in life. Furthermore, the symptoms often lead to depression and other mental illnesses, which can have a negative impact on the quality of life of those affected.

As a rule, cardiac muscle hypertrophy is treated with the help of medication. There are no complications, but it cannot be predicted directly whether the treatment will lead to a positive course of the disease. The life expectancy of the patient is usually limited by the myocardial hypertrophy and is reduced to a few more years without treatment.

When should you go to the doctor?

If symptoms of heart failure are noticed, a doctor should be consulted. Cardiac hypertrophy is manifested by shortness of breath, heart pain, angina pectoris and dizziness. If these signs appear and do not go away on their own after a few days at the latest, medical advice is required. This is especially true if there are other symptoms, such as shortness of breath or panic attacks. Unspecific complaints should also be clarified if they occur over several days or weeks and cannot be attributed to any other cause.

People who are already suffering from heart disease are particularly at risk. People who lead an unhealthy lifestyle and are consequently obese often suffer from cardiac muscle hypertrophy. Likewise, competitive athletes and people with chronic lung disease or pulmonary valve stenosis. Anyone who belongs to this risk group should consult a specialist with the symptoms mentioned. The general practitioner can make the initial diagnosis and refer the patient to a suitable cardiologist. In the case of severe symptoms, the medical emergency service can be contacted first.

Treatment & Therapy

The treatment of myocardial hypertrophy can now be carried out in a very targeted manner. In this context, the therapy of cardiac muscle hypertrophy is based on various pillars.

However, at the heart of treating myocardial hypertrophy is the prescription of medication. The effect of the medicinal substances contained is aimed at reducing increased physical stress, for example through competitive sports. Even types of sport in which a maximum heart load occurs quickly should be avoided at first. However, well-dosed physical exercise is allowed. Conventional therapy variants involve the administration of drugs known as beta blockers or calcium antagonists, which reduce the performance of the left ventricle.

If there are already cardiac arrhythmias that can lead to life-threatening ventricular fibrillation, treatment of the myocardial hypertrophy with antiarrhythmic drugs makes sense. In order to support the contractility of the entire heart muscle, digitalis or catecholamines are also taken in the therapy of heart muscle hypertrophy. Conventional treatment is supplemented by interventional procedures.

Outlook & Forecast

Cardiac muscle hypertrophy is basically treatable and treatable. With good medical care, early therapy and the cooperation of the patient, the enlargement of the heart muscle can be changed and reduced. Therefore, in principle, a favorable prognosis is possible. Medical treatment and monitoring of the state of health are necessary to ensure that the person concerned does not die prematurely. Without medical intervention, the risk of mortality is significantly increased.

If there are no other diseases or disturbances of the heart rhythm, the patient can achieve freedom from symptoms within a few months. The circumference of the heart muscle is reduced in a gradual and controlled manner. At the same time, the patient’s symptoms decrease. Oftentimes, a lifestyle change is required for recovery.

Since myocardial hypertrophy mostly occurs in athletes, inner resistance to necessary limitations in the chosen lifestyle can develop. Cardiac muscle hypertrophy often forces competitive athletes to give up almost all of their sporting activities. There is a risk of secondary illnesses, since the necessary restructuring will lead to severe psychological stress during the transition period. If the person concerned does not accept the doctor’s warnings and treatment plan, this can lead to permanent damage to the organ and severe respiratory impairment. In these cases, the prognosis is classified as poor.


Monitoring blood pressure is useful to prevent heart muscle hypertrophy. High blood pressure needs to be treated. Competitive sports should also include regular medical check-ups in order to rule out health problems caused by cardiac muscle hypertrophy in good time.

Surgery, including the implantation of a defibrillator, can be used as a preventative measure in the case of a genetic predisposition to myocardial hypertrophy if there is a family history of this. This device is also known as a pacemaker and can prevent dangerous ventricular fibrillation in cardiac muscle hypertrophy. A healthy lifestyle is also a useful contribution to preventing cardiac muscle hypertrophy.


In the case of myocardial hypertrophy, those affected usually have very few or even no direct follow-up measures available. In the case of this disease, a doctor must first and foremost be consulted as quickly as possible so that further complications do not arise. In the worst case, the affected person dies from this disease if it is not treated properly.

In most cases, cardiac muscle hypertrophy is treated by taking medication. The person concerned should always pay attention to the correct application and also to the correct dosage of the medication. If anything is unclear or if you have any questions, you should always contact a doctor first. As a rule, physical exertion should be avoided in the case of cardiac muscle hypertrophy so as not to strain the heart unnecessarily.

The doctor can also explain to the person concerned which activities are permitted. Furthermore, regular examinations by a doctor are necessary to monitor and control the heart. In severe cases, surgery may also be necessary to relieve the symptoms of myocardial hypertrophy. After such an operation, the affected person must rest and refrain from physical or stressful activities.

You can do that yourself

If heart muscle hypertrophy is diagnosed, in addition to drug therapy, an adjustment in everyday behavior and self-help measures are suitable for interrupting the process of hypertrophy of the heart muscle and improving the subjective feeling.

It is important to organize one’s life in such a way that there is no longer any incentive for the heart muscle to react to the demanded performance by increasing mass in a compensatory manner. This does not mean avoiding any kind of heart strain, but rather sports that involve light endurance, such as Nordic walking on the flat, swimming and cycling. Most ball sports have an unfavorable effect because they are associated with performance peaks that cannot be calculated in advance.

In addition to light to moderate sporting activities, it makes sense to support the stress management process with recognized relaxation techniques such as Tai Chi, targeted breathing exercises, yoga, Qi Gong or similar techniques. Exercising relaxation techniques in connection with light to moderate endurance sports leads to lower blood pressure and a stable heart rhythm. This gives the heart the opportunity to regenerate. If the myocardial hypertrophy was caused by competitive sports (athlete’s heart), there is even a chance that it will regress.

Myocardial Hypertrophy