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Understanding an Enlarged Heart Diagnosis

At CardioVascular Health Clinic, your heart health matters to us, especially if you are at risk of developing a heart-related condition such as an enlarged heart.

If you or a loved one has an enlarged heart or are at risk of this due to a family history or pre-existing condition, it is essential to get evaluated and understand your treatment options.

Let’s discuss an enlarged heart in more detail, including what it is, common symptoms, and the answer to “what causes an enlarged heart?” here.

What is an Enlarged Heart?

An enlarged heart, medically referred to as cardiomegaly, is a symptom of another underlying cardiovascular condition, such as

  • heart disease
  • a heart valve problem
  • a previous heart attack
  • stress

What Causes an Enlarged Heart?

The heart muscles can become thicker, or one chamber may dilate—enlarging the heart—in response to certain conditions that either damage the heart muscle or make the heart pump harder than it should. 

Conditions leading to an enlarged heart may be temporary or chronic, ranging from congenital defects to permanent damage from a heart attack.

An enlarged heart can also result from conditions such as

  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Poorly controlled hypertension
  • Pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure on the right side of heart)
  • Coronary artery disease (blocked arteries in the heart)
  • Heart valve disease
  • Anemia (low red blood cell count)
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Hemochromatosis (excessive iron)
  • Pericardial effusion (fluid around the heart)

In rare cases, the cause of an enlarged heart is indeterminable. This is referred to as idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy.

Risk Factors for an Enlarged Heart

While an enlarged heart can affect anyone at any age, there are vital factors that may increase your risk of developing this condition, including

  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • High blood pressure
  • Untreated Sleep apnea
  • Frequent and heavy alcohol or drug use
  • Family or personal history of heart attacks or an enlarged heart
  • Obesity
  • History of metabolic disorders

Symptoms of an Enlarged Heart

Some people with an enlarged heart may only know they have one if it is identified during a physical exam.

If symptoms do occur, they often include

  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling (edema), especially in the legs
  • Abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia) or palpitations
  • Fainting
  • Chest pain
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body, such as the stomach, neck, jaw, back, or one or both arms
  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain, specifically around the midsection

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, we can order several tests to determine if your heart is enlarged, including a chest x-ray, electro- or echocardiogram, stress test, or CT scan. 

Thorough testing is the best way to evaluate how efficiently your heart pumps blood and identify any damage to your heart, arteries, or chambers.

What are the Complications of an Enlarged Heart?

The complications of an enlarged heart depend on the underlying condition causing the problem and the part of the heart that is affected or enlarged. 

The heart can continue to function normally up to a certain point, but as the condition progresses, the heart's performance will begin to decline.

Potential complications from an enlarged heart include

  • Blood clots
  • Arrhythmias
  • Heart murmur
  • Heart failure
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sudden death

Diagnosing an Enlarged Heart

The best tool for diagnosing an enlarged heart is an echocardiogram, an ultrasound of the heart. 

This risk-free test assesses your heart’s size, function, and thickness. Similarly, a chest X-ray can also reveal an enlarged heart.

Your doctor can also assess your risk through a physical exam. Typically, enlarged hearts are detectable through stethoscope tests. 

In some cases, blood tests are helpful in testing for thyroid diseases or viral infections.

How is an Enlarged Heart Treated?

An enlarged heart is treated by directly targeting the condition causing your heart enlargement.

Treatment options may include:

  • medications
  • medical procedures
  • lifestyle changes

Your doctor may prescribe medications to lower your blood pressure, improve your heart’s function, regulate your heartbeat, or reduce your risk of blood clots.

If medication alone is insufficient, you may need a medical or surgical procedure, such as heart valve surgery, to repair or replace the damaged valve or coronary bypass surgery. 

You may also benefit from a medical device like a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), an implantable mechanical pump that helps your heart to pump, or a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), which monitors and regulates your heartbeat. Extreme cases may require a full heart transplant.

Can an Enlarged Heart be Prevented?

In some cases, an enlarged heart can be prevented by reducing your risk of developing an underlying condition that will impact your heart, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol. 

Eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle, stopping tobacco use, and limiting alcohol consumption are all ways to prevent your risk of developing a heart condition and, subsequently, an enlarged heart. 

If you already have a pre-existing condition like diabetes or high blood pressure, managing it appropriately and improving your lifestyle choices can help to keep your heart functioning regularly.

Effective Enlarged Heart Care in Oklahoma

The team of physicians at CardioVascular Health Clinic specializes in treating cardiovascular conditions like enlarged heart, remaining at the forefront of innovative technology and techniques to deliver the highest quality of care. 

With eight state-of-the-art facilities across Oklahoma, CardioVascular Health Clinic helps ensure you receive the accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan you deserve to live your life to the fullest. 

Don’t wait another day to take charge of your health; call CardioVascular Health Clinic today at (405) 701-9880 or contact us to schedule your appointment.

Patient Resources

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Professional staff working in a beautiful facility with great doctors who sincerely care about their patients. Without Dr. Schmidt's skill, I would have needed heart bypass surgery instead of a stent. Follow-up has been thorough. I can't recommend them highly enough.
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Dr. Jim Melton and all the staff are fantastic. He is an excellent surgeon and his team is GREAT!!!! I just had surgery at the surgery center, I have only great things to say about my experience. Without him I really don't think I would be here to write this. If you’re looking for a good cardiovascular team, they are a 5 star for sure.

Susie H.

Dr. Parsons and staff are amazing. He truly listened to me from the consult. Staff showed genuine care for my progress post procedure. I had my follow up appointment today so satisfied with results. Blake made me comfortable from the start. He is an activist for uterine fibroids treatment beyond the standard.

Tamara M.

Professional and caring staff. Dr. Smith is very knowledgeable and shows genuine concern for your personal health. I enjoyed the background music in the procedure room, it really adds to the relaxing atmosphere.

David L.

Dr. John Schrader is the most personable doctor we know. He stays on top of my dads health care and is genuinely concerned about his health. We never leave his office with questions. He answers them all. Even questions we don’t think of. Always professional but never cold or bad bedside manner. In our opinion he is THE BEST around.
Thank you Dr Schrader.

Kathy J.

I came to Dr. Warren by a self referral for mals when it took me 8yrs 50+ doctors and thousands of dollars spent on no answers. My first visit I was scared I was just going to be gaslighted just like the past however I was pleasantly shocked when Dr. Warren immediately believed me. She took the time to review many disk I had brought from past tests. She never once dismissed me and listened to ever word I had to say. She scheduled one last test to confirm the diagnosis then I was scheduled for surgery right away. Surgery was a success and I can’t thank her and her staff enough. Dr. Warren truly saved my life.

Angie W.

Dr. Garner literally saved my life 18 months ago and I've followed him to his new practice with Cardiovascular Health. He explains things so clearly, listens and is just a very nice person. His staff is great, too! I highly recommend!

D Watts

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