The major pumping chamber of the heart is the left
ventricle. This heart chamber pumps oxygenated blood into the aorta, the large blood vessel that delivers blood to the
body's tissues. If the left ventricle has to work too hard, its muscle hypertrophies (enlarges) and becomes thick. This is called left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH). Because of the increased
thickness, blood supply to the muscle itself may become inadequate. This can
lead to cardiac ischemia (not enough blood and oxygen
at the tissue level), myocardial infarction (heart
attack), or heart failure. The November 17, 2004, issue of JAMA includes several articles about reducing the risks of heart failure
and death from LVH by treating high blood pressure.
Hypertension (high blood
Aortic valve stenosis (narrowing
of the valve from the heart to the aorta)
Obstructive cardiomyopathy (an
inherited type of LVH that slows blood flow to the aorta because of overgrown
Shortness of breath
Because these signs and symptoms can indicate several different kinds
of heart trouble or other illnesses, it is important to see your doctor if
you experience any of these symptoms. Sometimes individuals develop LVH without
symptoms, so checking blood pressure is important.
display of the electrical activity pattern from the heart. Electrical conduction
in the heart changes when the heart muscle becomes too thick.
of ultrasound (sound wave) technology to show a picture
of the heart muscle indicating whether the cardiac muscle tissue has overgrown
and if blood flow through the heart has been disrupted.
Treatment of high blood pressure, usually including blood pressure medication
and a healthful lifestyle (regular exercise, healthful diet to maintain normal
weight, no tobacco use), can help prevent LVH from developing in the first
place. If LVH is already present, treating hypertension can stop progression
of LVH and may also prevent heart failure resulting from it. The other causes
of LVH require specialized evaluation and treatment.
Recognize and treat high blood pressure before
complications such as LVH arise.
Recognize and treat aortic valve stenosis before
damage to the heart muscle occurs.
American Heart Association 800/AHA-USA-1
National Heart, Lung, andBlood Institute 301/592-8573 http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov
To find this and previous JAMA Patient Pages, go to the Patient Page
Index on JAMA's Web site at http://www.jama.com. Many are available in English and Spanish. A Patient Page on heart failure was published in the February 6, 2002, issue; one on hypertension
was published in the February 27, 2002, issue; one on electrocardiograms was
published in the April 23/30, 2003, issue; and one on risk factors for heart
disease was published in the August 20, 2003, issue.
Sources: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; American Heart Association
The JAMA Patient Page is a public service of JAMA. The information and recommendations appearing on this page are appropriate
in most instances, but they are not a substitute for medical diagnosis. For
specific information concerning your personal medical condition, JAMA suggests that you consult your physician. This page may be photocopied
noncommercially by physicians and other health care professionals to share
with patients. Any other print or online reproduction is subject to AMA approval.
To purchase bulk reprints, call 718/946-7424.
TOPIC: HEART DISEASE
Torpy JM, Glass TJ, Glass RM. Left Ventricular Hypertrophy. JAMA. 2004;292(19):2430. doi:10.1001/jama.292.19.2430