Left Ventricular Hypertrophy (LVH)

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Topic Overview

What is left ventricular hypertrophy?

Left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH) means that the muscle of the heart's main pump (left ventricle) has become thick and enlarged. This can happen over time if the left ventricle has to work too hard. This part of the heart needs to be strong to pump oxygen-rich blood to your entire body. When the ventricle gets thick, other changes can happen in the heart. The heart's electrical system might not work normally, the heart muscle may not get enough oxygen, and the heart may not pump as well as it should.

LVH is linked to an increased risk of other problems, including heart attack, heart failure, stroke, and heart rhythm problems. Treatment can help reduce these risks.

It can be stressful to learn that you have a problem with your heart. But there are things you can do to feel better and help keep this condition from getting worse.

What causes LVH?

LVH is usually caused by high blood pressure. It may also be caused by a heart problem, such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or a heart valve problem like aortic valve stenosis.

What are the symptoms?

LVH may not cause symptoms. When it does, the most common ones are:

  • Shortness of breath.
  • Feeling tired or dizzy.
  • Angina symptoms, such as chest pain or pressure, which may be worse when you're active.
  • Feeling like your heart is fluttering, racing, or pounding (palpitations).

New or worse symptoms may be a sign of heart failure. Heart failure means that your heart doesn't pump as much blood as your body needs.

How is it diagnosed?

Your doctor will do a physical exam and ask you about any health problems you've had. You'll also be asked if any of your family members have or had heart disease or died suddenly from heart problems.

You may have tests such as an echocardiogram and an electrocardiogram (EKG).

How is it treated?

The best treatment will depend on what caused LVH. For many people, the focus will be on treating high blood pressure. Getting high blood pressure under control may keep LVH from getting worse. This can help prevent heart failure. It can also help lower the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Medicines and lifestyle changes are used to treat high blood pressure. It may take some time to find the right medicine or medicines for you. Work with your doctor by taking your medicines as prescribed and going to all of your follow-up appointments.

If LVH was caused by a heart problem, you may have other treatment options. Treatment may help lower your risk of heart failure and other serious problems.

What can you do at home?

Healthy habits are important for your heart. Taking an active role in your treatment can help you feel better and protect your health.

  • Be more active. Talk to your doctor before you start an exercise program. Together you can create a plan that can help keep your heart and body healthy. Your doctor might suggest that you get 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week.
  • Eat heart-healthy foods. Heart-healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, high-fiber foods, fish, and foods low in sodium, saturated fat, and trans fat.
  • Lose extra weight. Being active and eating healthy foods can help you stay at a healthy weight or lose weight if you need to.
  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Do not stop or change your medicines without talking to your doctor first. Talk to your doctor if you have problems with your medicines.
  • Don't smoke. Quitting smoking lowers your risk of heart attack and stroke. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.

Related Information

References

Other Works Consulted

  • Drazner MH (2011). The progression of hypertensive heart disease. Circulation, 123(3): 327–334. DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.108.845792. Accessed August 3, 2016.
  • Ruilope LM, Schmieder RE (2008). Left ventricular hypertrophy and clinical outcomes in hypertensive patients. American Journal of Hypertension, 21(5): 500–508. DOI: 10.1038/ajh.2008.16. Accessed August 3, 2016.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerR. Steven Tharratt, MD, MPVM, FACP, FCCP - Pulmonology, Critical Care Medicine, Medical Toxicology

Current as ofNovember 14, 2016