DEAR DR. ROACH: What is the difference between eccentric LVH and concentric LVH? Which one is more dangerous and needs more attention? My mother was diagnosed with severe eccentric LVH for body surface area with adequate systolic and diastolic functions. What does that mean? — C.F.
ANSWER: The left ventricle is the chamber of the heart that pumps blood to the entire body, except for through the lungs; that is the job of the right ventricle. When the job is too hard, usually because of high blood pressure, the left ventricle hypertrophies, meaning its walls get thicker as a response to the increased workload. That hypertrophy can be symmetrical (concentric) or asymmetrical (eccentric). Early on, the left ventricle can still do its two jobs despite the hypertrophy: It can push out all the blood the body needs (that’s the systolic function), and relax under low pressure (that’s the diastolic function). Your mother has adequate systolic and diastolic function, so she is not in heart failure at this time.
If LVH is not treated, it tends to get worse. Usually the diastolic function fails first, and the left ventricle, being thick and stiff, requires higher pressure to relax properly and allow the blood to flow in from the left atrium. The major symptom of diastolic heart failure (now called “heart failure with preserved ejection fraction,” or HF-pEF) is shortness of breath, especially with exertion. Some people may progress to having both systolic and diastolic failure (“heart failure with reduced ejection fraction,” HF-rEF), where fatigue becomes a major symptom. Swelling of the legs and increasing nighttime urination are additional symptoms.
It’s not good to have either eccentric or concentric LVH, but cardiac physiologists note that concentric LVH gives the heart less ability to adapt to increased stress and has a worse prognosis. Both situations need to be treated as rapidly as possible to allow the heart to return to a more normal state. Blood pressure reduction — whether through diet, weight loss, salt restriction, stress management, pharmacologic therapy or a combination — is the primary treatment. Some blood pressure medications are more effective than others in helping the heart return to a more normal state, and high blood pressure experts often choose agents that are more effective in those people with LVH, especially concentric LCH, on echocardiogram. ACE inhibitors and beta blockers are typically a part of first-line treatment.
DEAR DR. ROACH: I have been prescribed Janumet XR and am concerned if this drug is addictive. I do not want to be on this medication long-term. Can I get my diabetes under control by weight management and diet? — S.S.
ANSWER: Janumet is a combination of Januvia (sitagliptin) and metformin (Glucophage). Together these drugs work to reduce sugar made by the liver and to increase release of insulin by the pancreas. Janumet is not addictive.
Many people are able to control diabetes through careful management of diet and weight control (exercise is the other important lifestyle management tool); however, depending on where your sugar levels have been, your doctor may have decided to put you on medication now to protect your body. It’s possible for many patients to get off medications, but it requires a real commitment: a big change in diet and exercise, usually with significant weight loss.
Dr. Roach regrets that he is unable to answer individual questions, but will incorporate them in the column whenever possible. Readers may email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu.
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