What is an Enlarged Heart?

A very common saying for when you are proud of someone is to say that your heart swells with pride. Then again, the truth of the matter is that if your heart were to swell, it would be called a Cardiomegaly, or an enlarged heart. Now, you must be wondering what the problem is having a big heart? The answer is: Having an enlarged heart can result in heart failure because of its inability to pump blood effectively throughout the body. However, experts at Apollo Hospitals Department of Cardiology state that an enlarged heart is not a disease, but rather a symptom of an underlying condition.

Types of an Enlarged Heart

The first thing that you need understand is that enlargement of the heart could be caused solely by stress, which makes your heart pump harder than usual and can damage your heart muscle. It is also possible that damage from a heart attack, an irregular heartbeat, or even a condition that you are born with, can cause your heart to enlarge.

When doctors test for an enlarged heart, some of the other contributing factors that they search for are:

  • Cardiomyopathy – a disease of the heart
  • Anaemia – where there is a lack of healthy red blood cells to carry an adequate amount of oxygen around your body
  • Hypertension or high blood pressure – this occurs when the heart pushes blood through the arteries is too high
  • Pregnancy – an enlarged heart can develop around the time of delivery
  • Kidney disease – if it requires dialysis
  • Damaged or Abnormal Heart Valves

Diagnosing an Enlarged Heart

Though there is cause for concern when diagnosed with an enlarged heart, there is also hope because the condition is treatable by identifying and correcting the cause of the ailment. The majority of the time, an enlarged heart has no symptoms; however, that is dependent on the individual.  Nevertheless, a person does develop symptoms they could experience shortness of breath, fatigue, weight gain, leg swelling, and palpitations (skipped heartbeats).

X-Ray of an Enlarged Heart
X-Ray of an Enlarged Heart

Sometimes, the discovery of an enlarged heart is entirely accidental when testing for other illnesses; the usual test for an enlarged heart is called an Echocardiography, which is essentially an ultrasound of the heart. The test examines the heart’s size, muscle thickness, and pumping function of the organ.

Other tests include a physical exam with a stethoscope that may produce abnormal sounds indicative of an enlarged heart. There is even a possibility that a chest x-ray may reveal an abnormally large shadow on the x-ray film, as well as blood tests testing for viral infections or other diseases, can also be revealing.

Treating an Enlarged Heart

Depending on the case, the treatment of an enlarged heart does not have to involve medication or surgical procedures. Treatment can begin by making specific and dedicated changes to your lifestyle. The first change that can help ease some symptoms of an enlarged heart is to change your eating habits. Switching to a balanced diet full of nutritious foods can reduce its effects as well as combat the underlying cause.

The second change is to add more physical activity into your daily routine. Though, you should be sure to consult your doctor before you start any physical activity. Other than changing these key things, reducing bad habits such as smoking, alcohol, caffeine, and not getting enough sleep are beneficial as well.

In more severe cases, lifestyle changes are not sufficient. Doctors will recommend treatments that focus on correcting the particular cause, as well as insisting lifestyle changes. They may prescribe medications like diuretics, inhibitors, beta blockers, anticoagulants, or anti-arrhythmic drugs. If all else fails, and the medications and lifestyle changes are not enough to cure you, surgery may be necessary or other procedures to correct the problem. Depending on the seriousness of the situation, you may be given a pacemaker to control your heart contractions and have corrective surgery on your valves or arteries.

Whatever the cause may be, our specialists at Apollo Hospitals want to assure you that an enlarged heart is treatable. If you suspect that you have an enlarged heart contact your doctor to schedule you for an examination at your earliest convenience.

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