Left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH) is a thickening of the heart muscle of the left ventricle of the heart which is also referred to as left-sided ventricular hypertrophy. The condition can be diagnosed on an ECG (echocardiogram) with great exactitude but may first be noticed on an EKG (electrocardiogram).
Left ventricular hypertrophy is a response to pressure overload and is secondary to conditions like hypertension and aortic stenosis. Other causes of left ventricular hypertrophy include athletic hypertrophy (a condition related to exercise), valve disease, congenital heart disease, and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
The most characteristic symptoms of Left Ventricular Hypertrophy are represented by shortness of breath, chest pain (especially following activity), feeling dizzy or fainting, and rapid heartbeat (palpitations). During the early stages, this condition may present no signs or symptoms at all.
Left ventricular hypertrophy – a condition in which the heart begins working harder than normal to pump blood to your body – can be caused by several factors, including aortic valve stenosis and high blood pressure. Aortic valve stenosis causes narrowing of the tissue flap, or aortic valve, separating the left ventricle from the large blood vessel leaving your heart, or aorta. This narrowing of the aortic valve causes the left ventricle to have to work harder to pump blood to the heart.
Left ventricular hypertrophy can also be caused by hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – a genetic disease that occurs when your heart muscle thickens too much. This condition makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood.
Risk factors for left ventricular hypertrophy include diabetes, being older, being overweight, and having a family history of it. African Americans are at a higher risk of this condition than Caucasians and women are more likely than men to develop left ventricular hypertrophy.
The kind of treatment that will be chosen depends on the cause of the Left Ventricular Hypertrophy.
Hypertensive LVH is caused by high blood pressure and is treated by controlling blood pressure via lifestyle changes and medications when needed.
Athletic hypertrophy doesn’t require any treatment. Individuals with athletic hypertrophy will need to discontinue exercising for three to six months and then get another echocardiogram in order to measure the thickness of the heart muscle to see if the thickness has decreased.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HOCM) is a rare condition that needs to be followed by a trained cardiologist and may need surgery or medical management. It’s important to get proper treatment since the condition can increase the risk of developing heart failure.
Maintaining a healthy blood pressure is the best way to prevent left ventricular hypertrophy. You can accomplish this by watching what you eat and avoiding foods high in salt and fat. Too much salt causes high blood pressure. Try eating no-salt-added foods or low sodium products. Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and avoiding (or limiting) your consumption of alcoholic beverages can help to prevent this condition as well.
Monitor your blood pressure regularly by purchasing a home blood pressure measuring device. Exercising for at least 30 minutes per day, several days per week is encouraged. Moderate activity such as walking is the best way to keep your blood pressure at normal levels. If you’re a smoker, quitting can help improve your blood pressure as well as your health in general. Losing weight can actually reverse left ventricular hypertrophy, as well as prevent it.