Mon-Friday, 8am-5pm

Risk Factors and Detection of HCM in Athletes

Most athletes aren’t worried about heart disease because they are often portrayed as the ideal standard of heart health. When a typical patient is diagnosed with early cardiac disease, their practitioner often recommends more exercise. 


A regular exercise routine can help lower blood pressure, lessen the risk of developing diabetes, maintain healthy body weight, and reduce inflammation throughout the body.


However, strenuous exercise also puts incredible strain on the heart and cardiovascular system, which can trigger underlying conditions. In these cases, we’re talking about world-class athletes–those who often perform long, intense sessions of cardio. Soccer players, marathon runners, hockey players, triathletes, and similar athletes can be at risk for sudden heart attack.


Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is sometimes found in young athletes, and in this article, we’re going to give a basic overview of the condition, its risk factors, and prevention techniques.


What is HCM in Athletes?

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a condition in which the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick. It is the most common cause of sudden cardiac death in young athletes, with approximately one-third of sudden cardiac deaths in athletes caused by HCM. Athletes, especially those participating in high-intensity sports, are at an increased risk of developing HCM, but there are ways to mitigate this risk.


Risk Factors for HCM in Athletes

There are several risk factors for developing HCM in athletes. One of the primary risk factors is genetics. HCM is an inherited condition, and athletes with a family history of the disease are at a higher risk of developing it. It is estimated that up to 50% of individuals with HCM have a family history of the disease.


Another risk factor for HCM in athletes is the intensity and duration of their athletic training. High-intensity exercise, such as endurance running or weightlifting, can cause the heart muscle to thicken, which can lead to HCM. Additionally, athletes who engage in prolonged and intense training may be at a higher risk of developing HCM.


Ways Athletes can Avoid HCM

While there is no surefire way to avoid developing HCM, there are steps athletes can take to lower their risk of developing the condition. One of the most important steps athletes can take is to get a thorough medical evaluation before participating in high-intensity sports. A medical evaluation can help identify any pre-existing heart conditions that may increase the risk of developing athletic HCM.


Athletes should also be aware of the signs and symptoms of HCM–such as shortness of breath, chest pain, and dizziness. If an athlete experiences any of these symptoms, they should stop exercising immediately and seek medical attention.


Athletes can also reduce their risk of developing HCM by engaging in moderate-intensity exercise rather than high-intensity exercise. This can involve engaging in activities such as brisk walking or cycling rather than activities that require high-intensity training. 


Additionally, athletes should work closely with their healthcare provider to develop a training regimen that is appropriate for their individual needs and physical capabilities. This may involve adjusting the duration and intensity of their training to reduce the risk of developing HCM.


How Doctors and Health Practitioners Can Talk to Patients at Risk for HCM

When an athlete shows signs of HCM, they should cut down on their high-intensity exercise, replacing it with moderate-intensity activity instead. This transition can be difficult for athletes who love competing in their sport of choice, so practitioners should be tactful when consulting with athletes at risk for HCM. Emphasize the severity of the condition while talking up safer sports.


What constitutes a safer activity? Moderate-intensity activity is usually made up of exercises that get your heart rate up to 50% to 60% higher than its rate when you are at rest.


Options include:

  • Walking two miles in 30 minutes
  • Biking five miles in 30 minutes
  • Swimming laps for 20 minutes
  • Running one and a half miles in 15 minutes
  • Doing water aerobics for 30 minutes
  • Playing volleyball for 45 minutes
  • Playing basketball for 20 minutes
  • Jumping rope for 15 minutes
  • Walking stairs for 15 minutes


Test Athletes for HCM with the Help of Vasolabs

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a serious condition that can lead to sudden cardiac death in young athletes. While there is no surefire way to prevent the development of HCM, athletes can take steps to lower their risk of developing the condition. This includes getting a thorough medical evaluation before participating in high-intensity sports, being aware of the signs and symptoms of HCM, engaging in moderate-intensity exercise, and working closely with a healthcare provider to develop an appropriate training regimen. 


By taking these steps, athletes can help reduce their risk of developing HCM and stay healthy and active.


We provide a range of vasometric services, which can be performed at your clinic or practice. We are the perfect option for smaller clinics and alternative providers in the functional medicine, chiropractic, homeopathic, and integrative spaces. Learn more about our vasometic services here.


We keep it simple

When you submit your information below, one of our caring staff will attempt to reach out to you within 24- a few days.