Enlarged Heart

enlarged heart cardiomyopathy

Last Updated December 20th, 2021

Enlarged heart or cardiomegaly is the condition where the heart expands in size, mostly because of swelling in the cardiac tissues. An enlarged heart is unable to pump blood properly. Thus the symptoms of cardiomegaly are thus related to improper circulation - swelling in limbs, fatigue, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeats, etc.
The treatment of an enlarged heart depends on what the actual cause is. The factors that can cause cardiomegaly are - hypertension, alcohol use, smoking, heart valve diseases, etc. At times even medications such as ACEs can lead to swelling of heart. It can be treated by controlling blood pressure, curbing substance abuse, medications, or implanting a cardiac device.
Enlarged heart or cardiomegaly can cause a wide array of symptoms. These are mostly associated with poor circulation of blood within the body. However, in rare cases, an enlarged heart can cause congestive heart failure. Here, there is excess fluid build-up in the tissues and this drastically brings down the pumping capacity of the heart. The risk of sudden cardiac arrest increases manifold.
One of the most shocking facts about enlarged heart in children is that it can mimic the symptoms of common childhood illnesses. It can be easily misdiagnosed as common cold, asthma, or the flu. Some children may also have stomach aches. Dizziness and fainting is commonly seen in cases of pediatric cardiomegaly. If the extent of the condition is severe, it may require a heart transplant.

What Is An Enlarged Heart Or ‘Cardiomegaly’?

When the heart becomes abnormally enlarged, often to a cardiovascular disease, the patient is said to be suffering from cardiomegaly. In other words, the enlargement of the heart is a symptom of a deeper medical problem. Most often, it arises as a consequence of common conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure) or coronary artery disease. In many cases, the condition is asymptomatic, however, it is generally related to a higher risk of congestive heart failure and cardiac arrest. If detected early, the condition can be managed well and complications can be avoided.

 

What Causes This?

ENLARGED HEART diagramSome individuals are born with an abnormally large heart. In others, cardiomegaly can be an acquired condition on account of certain lifestyle factors. Genetic factors may also have a role to play. Any condition that damages heart muscles or weakens them can potentially become a cause for the enlargement of the heart. For instance, a patient who has suffered from myocardial infarction may have permanently lost function in a certain section of heart muscle. In order to compensate for this, other areas of the heart have to work harder.

In general, a heart that is overworked is susceptible to cardiomegaly. This can also happen when the patient is suffering from atherosclerosis, often in the form of coronary artery disease. Alternatively, the patient may be suffering from a rare connective tissue disorder called Marfan syndrome which causes weakness in the connective tissues. Some recognized causes for cardiomegaly include:

  • Chronic hypertension or high blood pressure.
  • A family history of cardiomegaly or even of other cardiovascular conditions such as hypertension or heart attack.
  • A diet high in cholesterol.
  • Smoking.
  • Substance abuse.
  • Being pregnant.
  • Anaemia.
  • Viral infection of the heart.
  • Atrial fibrillation.
  • Heart valve disease.
  • Thyroid disease.
  • Connective tissue disorders.
  • Atherosclerosis or buildup of plaque in the arteries.
  • Coronary artery disease.
  • Diabetes.
  • Amyloidosis.
  • Cancers such as breast cancer.
  • Congenital heart failure.
  • Disturbed breathing during sleep.
  • Pericardial effusion or the buildup of fluid around the heart.
  • Hemochromatosis.
  • Advanced kidney disease.

 

What Are The Signs Of An Enlarged Heart?

enlarged heart xrayWhen the heart is abnormally enlarged, it becomes less able to pump blood as it should. As the organ struggles to keep up with the requirements of pumping oxygenated blood to the other organs and tissues, the patient may suffer from heart palpitations and feel breathless. They may even faint. However, in some cases, the condition remains silent and does not produce any clearly noticeable symptoms.A fuller list of possible symptoms appears below.

  • Shortness of breath.
  • Cough.
  • Swelling in ankles or feet.
  • Weight gain, usually around the midsection.
  • Fatigue.
  • Dizziness.
  • Chest pain.
  • Fainting.
  • Skipped heartbeats.
  • Abnormal heart rhythm or arrhythmia.

 

Are There Different Types Of Cardiomegaly?

Yes, there are two main forms of cardiomegaly, namely, the dilative and hypertrophic types.

  • Dilative cardiomegaly is linked with any condition that causes dilation of the myocardium which is the thick muscular tissue forming the middle layer of the heart wall. Usually, this is associated with a condition known as dilated cardiomyopathy which is a disease of heart muscle.
  • The second type of cardiomegaly arises as a result of overworking the heart’s muscles. This is known as the hypertrophic form of cardiomegaly and develops as a consequence of conditions such as chronic hypertension, valve damage and even myocardial infarction, all of which can place abnormally high stresses on the organ.

 

Am I At Risk Of Developing Any Severe Complications?

Possibly, yes. Patients with cardiomegaly should be alerted to the risk of developing secondary problems, some of which can be critical and even life-threatening. An abnormally large heart may not be able to perform its pumping action effectively, and eventually, this may lead to congestive heart failure which can be fatal. The enlargement of the heart can even interfere with valve function, preventing the valves from closing properly when they should. As a result, there can be problems like regurgitation and clot formation.

More details regarding some probable complications of cardiomegaly are given below:

  • Blood clots: Abnormal heart rhythm as a result of cardiomegaly increases the risk of developing blood clots. These clots can then travel through the bloodstream until they become lodged in a blood vessel and obstruct blood flow, depriving the organ or tissue of the oxygen it needs. When a clot gets stuck in an artery feeding the brain, the outcome is a stroke and this can even be fatal. Alternatively, it could lead to a pulmonary embolism.
  • Congestive heart failure: When the heart muscles are too weak to pump efficiently, the heart is simply unable to reach enough blood to all the tissues and organs that need it. This condition is known as heart failure. It is a medical emergency.
  • Sudden cardiac death: This is also known as cardiac arrest. It usually occurs as a result of abnormal heart rhythm. The patient may completely collapse and stop breathing.

 

What Tests Are Needed To Diagnose An Enlarged Heart?

enlarged heart cardiomyopathyIf you have observed a few or more of the symptoms listed above and have some of the risk factors mentioned earlier, you should visit a doctor in order to get a formal diagnosis. The following procedures may be performed:

  • Physical examination. Relevant findings include hypertension, shortness of breath and swollen legs. Auscultation with a stethoscope may reveal relevant indications such as heart murmurs or abnormal heart rhythm.
  • Medical history. Relevant findings include a family history of heart disease or a personal history of smoking, diabetes, atherosclerosis or breast cancer.
  • Blood tests can help to identify endocrine disorders or infections.
  • Chest X-ray.
  • Electrocardiogram.
  • Echocardiogram.
  • Exercise stress test.
  • Computerised tomography (CT) imaging.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) tests.
  • Tissue biopsy.

Treating an enlarged heart involves medications and might even require surgical intervention, in case of extreme cases.  The list of medications that are usually prescribed to such patients is:

  • Diuretics to reduce sodium content from the blood.
  • ACE inhibitors which regulate blood pressure.
  • ARBs, for those who cannot be prescribed ACE inhibitors.
  • Beta blockers and anticoagulants to improve cardiac function.

Surgical procedures generally performed are:

  • Heart valve surgery or coronary by-pass surgery if a coronary artery disease is responsible for the condition.
  • Fixing up the patient with a pacemaker that regulates heartbeat.
  • Heart transplantation if the above methods prove ineffective.

Prevention of any cardiac disorder involves following a heart-healthy diet, performing physical exercises, and refraining from substance abuse. If one has a family history of heart disease, one must go for regular heart check-ups.  One can also prevent cardiomegaly by controlling other associated conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and sleep apnea. Managing stress is also directly linked to prevention of heart diseases.

 

Facts

  • If your blood pressure is consistently higher than 140/90, then there are high chances of thickening of cardiac walls. This happens because the cardiac muscles have to work harder to keep up with the high blood pressure.

Facts

  • Enlarged heart could also result from congenital heart defects. Currently there are more than 1 million Americans living with congenital cardiac disorders.
  • The medical term for enlarged heart is cardiomegaly and it is most often diagnosed during routine heart x-rays.

Facts

  • In many pregnant women, cardiomegaly sets in during the time of delivery. This is called as peripartum cardiomyopathy.
  • Gaining too much weight, especially in around the waist could be a big risk factor in developing such cardiac disorders.

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Enlarged heart or cardiomegaly is the condition where the heart expands in size, mostly because of swelling in the cardiac tissues. An enlarged heart is unable to pump blood properly. Thus the symptoms of cardiomegaly are thus related to improper circulation - swelling in limbs, fatigue, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeats, etc.
The treatment of an enlarged heart depends on what the actual cause is. The factors that can cause cardiomegaly are - hypertension, alcohol use, smoking, heart valve diseases, etc. At times even medications such as ACEs can lead to swelling of heart. It can be treated by controlling blood pressure, curbing substance abuse, medications, or implanting a cardiac device.
Enlarged heart or cardiomegaly can cause a wide array of symptoms. These are mostly associated with poor circulation of blood within the body. However, in rare cases, an enlarged heart can cause congestive heart failure. Here, there is excess fluid build-up in the tissues and this drastically brings down the pumping capacity of the heart. The risk of sudden cardiac arrest increases manifold.
One of the most shocking facts about enlarged heart in children is that it can mimic the symptoms of common childhood illnesses. It can be easily misdiagnosed as common cold, asthma, or the flu. Some children may also have stomach aches. Dizziness and fainting is commonly seen in cases of pediatric cardiomegaly. If the extent of the condition is severe, it may require a heart transplant.

 

Dos and Don'ts

Dos
  • Studies suggest that drinking green tea can lower LDL cholesterol levels. Drink green tea to improve your overall cardiovascular health.
  • Maintain a level of physical activity but stop immediately you feel dizzy our nauseous.
  • Limit the consumption of low-nutrient foods such as processed foods or junk.
Don'ts
  • Start any fitness or exercise routine without consulting your doctor. The type of exercise one is allowed to do vary from patient to patient.
  • Perform sudden or fast moving exercises/ sports.
  • Consume a high –salt diet. Similarly, eliminate alcohol, sugar, and trans-fats from your diet.

 

 

 

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Endomysial Antibodies (EMA) Test EMA test is an investigative blood examination to locate the presence of certain antibodies, called Endomysial antibodies or…
blood elements analysis
Blood Element Analysis Test A blood element analysis is a blood test performed to measure the level of toxic elements such as…
beta 2 glycoprotein 1 IgG
Beta 2 Glycoprotein 1 IgG Beta 2 glycoprotein 1 antibody test involves detecting and measuring the presence of the IgG class of beta…
cystatin C
Cystatin C Test Cystatin C is a specific single-chain protein that is found in body fluids and is a biomarker for…
eating disorder anorexia
Eating Disorders: Lifestyle choice or a psychological condition? Is eating disorder just a harmless bad habit? Or does it represent grim psychological disorders? Do you want…
carrageenan seaweed
Carrageenan: How a simple seaweed extract could better your gut health & immunity Eat more ice cream to prevent cold and flu? –With carrageenan you get one simple seaweed extract that…
Jack in the box fast food
Jack In the Box : The perils of surging fast food culture in the USA Jack in the Box - How a culture of fast-food can clog your arteries, weaken your heart, fatten…
Garlic health benefits cloves
Garlic: Nature’s white pill as an effective home remedy What are the secrets hidden in these tiny white pills? Find out the immense health benefits of using…
Cordyceps: How the Caterpillar fungus works as a proven cancer-shield Strange as it may sound, but cordyceps or "caterpillar fungus", a fungus variety native to the Himalayas may…
GM Diet: The fastest way to lose weight or yet another hoax diet? General Motors started this trend of extreme dieting for 7 straight days to ensure its employees were able…
waterchestnut
Water Chestnuts: The tastiest ways to include this healthy tuber in your diet Water chestnut is not a nut after all. It is a tuber (much like the potatoes) growing close…
Oxalates: How healthy greens can sometimes be bad news for your kidneys Oxalates are compounds present in a majority of healthy foods. However, at times an overconsumption of these could…
How to scrub away stress and fatigue with an Epsom salt bath? Epsom salt is a popular home remedy for many skin ailments. Though there is a lack of scientific…
6 arguments in favour of glucosamine and where can you find it Studies have shown that glucosamine works by preventing the breakdown of cartilage of the joints. This is usually…
EEG
Electroencephalogram – EEG EEG or electroencephalogram is a diagnostic tool used to access the functioning of neurons and brain activity to…
Chest X-Ray A chest x-ray is a diagnostic test that uses x-rays to visualize the structures inside your chest. It…
LFT-test
Liver Function Test – LFT LFT or Liver Function Test is a blood test used to determine the levels of hepatic enzymes which…
thyroid_scan
Thyroid Scan Thyroid scan is a diagnostic procedure that aims to view the thyroid gland and detect any growths or…
Rubella IgM test
Rubella IgM Test The Rubella IgM test is a blood test that is performed to diagnose the presence of the rubella…
HSV-IgM test
Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV)-IgM Test The HSV-IgM class antibody is produced by the body a few days after an initial HSV infection and…
apolipoprotein a1 test
Apolipoprotein -A1 (APO-A1) Test Apolipoprotein A-I (Apo-A1) constitutes 70% of protein content in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and helps in lipid metabolism.
dhea adrenal
Androstenedione Test Androstenedione is produced by the adrenal gland, the test of the levels of Androstenedione helps in the evaluation…
ureteroscopy
Ureteroscopy Ureteroscopy is the diagnostic procedure which is used for the detection of the kidney stones in addition to…
occupational hazards types
Occupational Hazards: How to vouch for your health at your workplace Occupational hazards affect millions worldwide. Chemical spills, faulty wires, deadly pathogen, and work-stress can happen anytime. Follow these…
nutritional yeast bread
Nutritional Yeast : How can a fungi culture be good for your body? Nutritional yeast: How a simple culture of fungi can transform your skin, digestion, immunity , and much more.…
Anhedonia: Does the chronic inability to feel joy affect you too? How often do you feel dragged down by an invisible force? Do you feel an inexplicable emotional numbness…
Plexus Slim: Is this pink slimming drink the ultimate one-stop fat burner? How effective is Plexus Slim in helping people lose weight? What are its ingredients? Can it be safely…
Ear infections check up
Troubled with ear infections? Find easy and instant home remedies here Ear infections are common in both children and adults and may lead to hearing loss if left untreated.…
Appendix pain: Recent findings on this not-so vestigial organ The exact function of the appendix is still not clear. Some consider it as an organ that once…
Top reasons why you need to pay attention to your vitamin B6 intake Vitamin B6- An essential water-soluble vitamin. Its deficiency leads to physical changes such as sores & glossy tongue…
liver cleanse detox
14 go-to foods that are best for a complete natural liver detox Liver cleanse can be achieved by just choosing or avoiding certain types of food. Liver itself is a detoxifying…
anoscopy
Anoscopy Anoscopy is an invasive diagnostic procedure where a small device known as anoscope will be inserted in the…
Jicama: A fiber-rich tuber for your weight loss goals Pronouced as HEE-kah-ma, Jicama is the "new kid on the block" that has taken the world by the…