Doctor breaks down rare and deadly heart disease

Doctor breaks down rare and deadly heart disease

Doctors say about one in 1,000 people suffer from an enlarged heart wall that can lead to sudden cardiac death much like Razorback Garrett Uekman and sometimes the first symptom is your last.

Many athletes want big, strong muscles. But when it comes to the most important muscle of all, the thinner the better.

"As the heart muscle thickens, it begins to impair the ability to pump blood through the heart and through the valves," said Dr. Jeffrey Stewart, the Assistant Medical Director of the Arkansas Heart Hospital. "Overtime, the muscles of the heart begin to thicken. They grow abnormally enlarged hearts. Unfortunately, by a basic physical exam, sometimes this can go unnoticed."

Dr. Stewart says without specific scans, 19-year-old Razorback Garrett Uekman may have never known he suffered from an enlarged heart.

"Unfortunately, your first warning episode may be sudden cardiac death," said Dr. Stewart.

About one in 1,000 people suffer from from Hypertrophic Cardiomyopothy - or the thickening of the heart muscle.

It sounds like a small number, but back in August Gurdon high schooler Montel Williams died in practice from a similar underlying heart condition.

"What we always worry about is the athlete that collapses on the field," said Dr. Stewart.

What makes this disease even scarier, Uekman didn't collapse on the field.

"Many times, sudden cardiac death can occur with heavy physical activity but it can also occur at rest in baseline," said Dr. Stewart. "He may not have felt anything."

An enlarged heart wall is a genetic disease and doctors say most don't know until it's too late so check your family health history. It is treatable with certain surgeries and even a defibrillator but the earlier you catch it, the better.

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