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Let’s start this discussion with a principle: If you can reverse the cause, unless too much damage has already occurred, you can reverse the condition.

Hypertrophic Heart Disease has many causes, many of which are reversible with lifestyle changes.

Hypertrophic Heart Disease has many causes, many of which are reversible with lifestyle changes.

Here is a list of some of the main causes of Hypertrophic Heart Disease (sometimes called LVH-left ventricular hypertrophy):

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Obesity
  • Aortic valve stenosis (narrowing of the valve that blood passes through when it leave the heart)
  • Obstructive cardiomyopathy (an inherited type of LVH that slows blood flow to the aorta because of overgrown heart muscle)
  • Extreme athletic training. Intense, prolonged endurance and strength training can cause the heart to adapt to handle the extra workload. It’s unclear whether this athletic type of left ventricle hypertrophy can lead to stiffening of the heart muscle and disease.
  • Congenital Heart Disease

Let’s look at each of these causes and see which are reversible.

  • Hypertension: reversible. In the Ornish Program study of more then 3,500 people, the average drop in blood pressure was 20mmHg for systolic and 10mmHg for diastolic. These averages include all the people who decreased or came off of blood pressure medicines. 
  • Obesity: reversible. In the Ornish Program study of more then 3,500 people, weight decreased by an average of 13.3 pounds in the first 12 weeks and 15.9 pounds after 1 year. (In contrast, a study of Weight Watchers reported an average reduction of only 11.1 pounds after 1 year, even though the entire focus of their program was on weight loss.)
  • Aortic valve stenosis: valvular disease usually needs surgery when it becomes severe.
  • Obstructive cardiomyopathy: can sometimes be helped by Lifestyle changes, but rarely reversed. 
  • Extreme athletic training:  modifying workouts and going slower often helps, but it is not known if this type of heart change is harmful in all cases.
  • Congenital Heart Disease: you can reverse some of the issues that affect the progression of a genetic disorder, like inflammation and blood flow to the heart, but it is unlikely that one can reverse the condition.

Note that if any of the conditions listed above are affected by atherosclerosis, increasing blood flow to the myocardium will have a positive effect. In the Ornish Lifestyle Heart trial, blood flow to the myocardium increased by more then 300%.

So comprehensive lifestyle changes like the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program (Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation) helps participants. 

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lose weight
  • Reverse atherosclerosis, which helps increase blood flow to the myocardium

Lifestyle medicine is powerful, often much more so than medications. It has years of data supporting it, but is a small part of what our doctors have been taught in medical school. This is understandable, because until recently financial incentives and health care systems were not able to deliver programs that give patients the training and support they need for success. Now the Dr. Dean Ornish Program for Reversing Heart Disease is covered by Medicare and many centers are being trained to deliver this program. 

What strategies have you used to help improve hypertrophy?



Contributed by

Ben Brown, MD
Medical Director, Ornish Lifestyle Medicine

To your best health!

in collaboration with...

Dean Ornish, MD.
Program Founder

Awareness is the first step in healing. Just Ask!

Better Health Begins With You...

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