We often hear of an enlarged heart, what does it mean? How does one’s heart get enlarged? And how does it affect our health?
Our heart is a pear-shaped muscle pumping oxygen-rich blood throughout the body.
Sometimes due to certain factors, birth defects- congenital heart defects, our heart muscle has to work much harder causing it to enlarge or become bigger in size.
Once the heart becomes enlarged, it is almost impossible to get it back to the original size.Therefore timely detection and management is the key.
Let’s try and explore factors which lead to an enlarged heart, a medical condition, which is impossible to cure but can be managed medically.
- Congenital heart defects or heart defects one is born with us as PDA, VSD, ASD, Mitral valve defect, left untreated lead to high pulmonary pressures, which in turn lead to thickening of the arterial wall and also an enlarged heart.Though most babies are routinely scanned for congenital heart defects in developed countries, treatment upon detection and early intervention and management still remains the key.Many parents despite detection, are often scared to get surgical interventions without realizing that they are hampering both mental and physical growth and putting children at risk of enlarged heart and other complications later on in life.
complications such as hypertension or high blood pressure also lead to an enlarged heart over a period of time.In case of high blood pressure, the heart has to pump harder to deliver blood to the rest of your body, thereby thickening and enlarging the heart muscle.High blood pressure may also enlarge the upper chambers of the heart, the left ventricle and also weaken the heart long-term.
- Coronary artery disease or CAD (blocked arteries requiring stenting, angioplasty) can also lead to a heart attack. A part of the heart muscle dies during a heart attack, causing the heart muscle to work harder to supply blood to the entire body which over long-term leads to an enlarged heart.
- Abnormal Heart Beat or Arrhythmia is often ignored but may cause an enlarged heart over a period of time.
- Anemia or low level of iron in the body, where the body doesn’t have enough Red Blood Cells to carry blood to the body, leads to rapid, irregular heartbeat causing the heart to pump harder to make up for lack of sufficient oxygen in the blood.Sicklers or patients suffering from sickle cell anemia are at an increased risk and despite hearsay, a Bone Marrow Transplant or a BMT remains the only curative treatment for Sickle Cell Anemia, Thalassemia Major.
- Thyroid disorders, also lead to various heart diseases over a period of time leading to an enlarged heart.
The biggest complications arising from an enlarged heart are heart failure, SCA or SCD (sudden cardiac arrest or sudden cardiac death) or what is known as a silent heart attack in laymen language.
Heart Failure: During heart failure, the heart muscle weakens and the ventricles, stretch or dilate to a point that the heart cannot pump blood efficiently, leading to a sudden cardiac arrest.
Silent heart attack or SCD: An enlarged heart causes the heart rhythm to be so slow that the muscle is unable to move blood or it may cause a heart rhythm, so fast that the muscle is unable to beat properly resulting in sudden death.
More on diagnosis and treatment options in our next post.
Stay tuned in for more.
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