Enlarged heart symptoms share some common ground with heart attack symptoms.The root cause of heart enlargement lies either internally rooted complications or those brought on by external factors such as physical exertion. An enlarged heart muscle often presents during heart failure. Enlarged heart symptoms include edema (water retention and swelling), arrhythmia (irregular heart beat), shortness of breath and dizziness.
Diagnosis usually involves echocardiogram using ultrasound and chest X-rays. Conventional treatments include ACE inhibitors (angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitors, traditionally used to treat hypertension) and beta blockers.
What causes an enlarged heart?
The heart is critical to survival. Without it, blood carrying vital nutrients and oxygen would be unable to circulate through the body. The right ventricle and atrium recieve blood after it has passed through the organs – and is depleted of oxygen. They send the blood to the lungs to be replenished.
It moves from there via the pulmonary vein and from the left ventricle and atrium circulate the oxygen-rich through the body. When the heart is enlarged, it may indicate a disease process or an overworked organ.
As with other types of heart problems, enlarged heart symptoms can be caused by diseased heart valves, elevated blood pressure (hypertension), damage from heart attacks, irregular heart beat, anemia (insufficient red blood cells), hemochromatosis (elevated iron levels in the body) and congenital heart problems such as those found in certain connective tissue disorders (Marfan’s, Ehlers-Danlos), etc.
The benefits of exercise – improved body composition, reduction in cholesterol levels, improved ability, confidence – are not disputed. However, some individuals may be predisposed to developing an enlarged heart from frequent, overexertion, particularly if there are underlying factors which cause the heart to work harder than is necessary.
The condition can become dangerous when the heart chambers, or the muscular wall of the lower chamber get thickened, resulting in a lack of blood flow and the potential for heart disease. Heart enlargement may also be temporary, caused by conditions such as stress and pregnancy.
Enlarged heart symptoms
Typically, the lower chambers of the heart are effected by cardiomegaly (enlarged heart). Left unchecked, the condition can also affect the heart’s upper chambers. Sometimes – such as in the high profile cases of professional and high-level amateur athletes suffering sudden cardiac arrest due to a lack of diagnosis – the condition remains asymptomatic. Symptoms manifest when the body’s demand for oxygen-rich blood cannot be met by an affected heart.
- Valve spasm
- Valve disease
- Thyroid disorders
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in the chest
If cardiomegaly is detected, a treatment plan should be discussed by the cardiologist and patient in order to avoid future complications. This is especially important if the patient has other underlying conditions or predispositions to heart problems or is highly active. Commonly used diagnostic tools include X-rays and ultrasound echocardiogram.
They may be used as adjuncts to the results of physical stress tests which help analyze how well the heart is functioning and to determine the thickness of the heart muscles and overall size of the organ. In addition, the heart valve structure, the presence of stenosis (narrowing of the arteries) and regurgitation may be analyzed.
Typical treatment options include:
An exercise regime – within the safe limits of the patient’s cardiovascular capacity and regular physical ability
- Diuretics, sometimes combined with a low sodium diet
- A cholesterol lowering diet
- Blood pressure medications
- Nutritional supplements
Surgery, if the condition is critical: Coronary bypass if the coronary artery is affected; heart valve surgery if the valve is malfunctioning or severely diseased; Left Ventricle Assist Device – a mechanical device to help the heart pump blood (most often used if the patients is waiting for a heart transplant after heart failure); heart transplant surgery (a “last resort”) measure, requiring a compatible donor heart.
An enlarged heart is not a “death sentence” for the patient. However, as with any cardiac impairment, common sense measures – quitting smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, eliminating processed foods, reducing sugar, cutting out processed fat, reducing stress, monitoring blood pressure, exercising and consuming whole natural foods – all of which benefit cardiovascular health and contribute to overall well-being – should be undertaken with the guidance of a qualified healthcare practitioner to prevent the more serious symptoms of heart enlargement from manifesting.