Left Ventricular Hypertrophy
Your heart has four chambers. It’s divided in half: a left half and a right half. Each half has an atrium (the top chamber), which draws blood in from the body, and a ventricle (the bottom chamber), which pumps blood out of the heart.
Blood enters the heart through the right atrium after traveling through the body. The right ventricle pumps blood to the lungs, where it gives up carbon dioxide and picks up oxygen. Then the blood reenters the heart through the left atrium, and then the left ventricle pumps the blood back through the body.
Left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH) is when the left ventricle is enlarged, usually because of overwork. Two of the most common causes of LVH are aortic stenosis and high blood pressure (hypertension).
Aortic stenosis is when the aortic valve (leading from the left ventricle to the body’s arteries) gets clogged with calcium deposits, making it harder for the heart to pump blood through it. The left ventricle can also get strained as it attempts to maintain high blood pressure. We’ll talk more about the connection between high blood pressure and sleep apnea soon.
Like sleep apnea, many people have LVH but don’t know it. Only about 2% of the healthy population has LVH, but as much as 77% of people with untreated hypertension have LVH, with an overall prevalence of up to 20%. LVH doesn’t always have perceptible symptoms, but as it worsens, people might experience:
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- Dizziness or fainting
- Chest pain
When untreated, LVH can develop into serious heart complications. People are more likely to develop heart failure if they have LVH. In addition, they might experience a heart attack or heart attack symptoms because their ventricle has elevated oxygen demands that might not be met. People are at an increased risk of stroke with LVH, especially if they also develop atrial fibrillation.
With these risks, people in Detroit with LVH or who suspect LVH should seek treatment. The good news is that, like sleep apnea, LVH is reversible with treatment.