An enlarged heart, also known as cardiomegaly, occurs when your heart exceeds the normal size of your heart. This condition is not a disease, but is the result of disease and other health conditions. If you think you have an enlarged heart, follow these simple steps to detect and treat it.
Method 1 of 4: Detecting an Enlarged Heart
Step 1. Identify the cause
There are many diseases that can cause an enlarged heart. These diseases include diseases of the valves or heart muscle, arrhythmias, weakening of the heart muscle, fluid around the heart, high blood pressure, and pulmonary hypertension. You may also develop an enlarged heart after suffering from thyroid disease or chronic anemia. An enlarged heart can also be caused by an abnormal deposit of iron or protein in the heart.
There are also other situations that are associated with an enlarged heart. An enlarged heart can be caused by pregnancy, obesity, malnutrition, high stress levels, certain infections, poisoning with certain compounds such as drugs and alcohol, and drug use
Step 2. Know the risk factors
There are some people who are at risk of developing an enlarged heart, such as if you have high blood pressure, have blocked arteries, have congenital heart disease, heart valve disease, or have had a heart attack. You are also at risk if your family has a history of an enlarged heart because this condition tends to be inherited.
Blood pressure over 140/90 is considered high enough as a risk factor for an enlarged heart
Step 3. Know the symptoms
Although not a disease, an enlarged heart in some people is accompanied by symptoms. Irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, dizziness, and coughing are some of the symptoms of an enlarged heart. The symptoms of an enlarged heart that you show may vary depending on the cause.
You should see a doctor immediately if you experience chest pain, shortness of breath, or fainting
Step 4. Understand the complications
There are several complications that can arise from an enlarged heart. You may be more prone to blood clots and cardiac arrest. Heart murmurs due to friction as blood flows and heart rhythm disturbances may also be louder. If left untreated, an enlarged heart can also lead to sudden death.
Enlargement that occurs in the left ventricle of the heart is considered a severe case, and puts you at risk for heart failure
Step 5. Check for an enlarged heart
There are several ways that doctors can use to diagnose an enlarged heart. The first step is usually an X-ray, which will allow your doctor to determine the size of your heart. The doctor may also perform an echocardiogram or electrocardiogram if the X-ray results are not clear enough. Your doctor may also order you to undergo a heart stress test, CT scan, or MRI.
The doctor will conduct an examination to find out the cause of the enlarged heart and choose the best way to treat it
Method 2 of 4: Changing Your Lifestyle
Step 1. Change your diet
One of the main ways to reduce the effects of an enlarged heart and treat its causes is to adjust your diet. You should eat foods low in saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol. You should also include fruit, vegetables, low-fat meats, and more healthy protein in your diet.
- You should drink 6-8 glasses of 240 ml every day.
- Try to eat more fish, green leafy vegetables, fruit, and nuts to lower cholesterol and sodium levels, and lower blood pressure.
- You can also ask your doctor for advice in developing the most suitable diet for your condition.
Step 2. Exercise
Increase physical activity in your daily life. Your doctor may recommend different sports activities according to the condition causing your enlarged heart. Your doctor may recommend light-intensity aerobic exercise such as walking or swimming if your heart is too weak to work too hard.
- Your doctor may also recommend more intense cardio and strength training such as cycling or running once you've gotten stronger or if you need to lose a lot of weight.
- Always consult your doctor before engaging in any physical activity, especially if you have heart problems.
- The combination of a healthy diet with exercise will help you lose weight which is very beneficial for treating many conditions that cause an enlarged heart.
Step 3. Get rid of bad habits
There are certain bad habits that you should avoid or stop altogether when you are diagnosed with an enlarged heart. You should immediately stop smoking because this habit increases the burden on the heart and blood vessels. You should also avoid excessive consumption of alcohol and caffeine as both can make the heart beat irregularly and put a strain on the muscles.
You should try to get 8 hours of sleep every night to help regulate your heart rate and restore your body's energy each day
Step 4. Visit the doctor often
You will need to visit your doctor frequently during your recovery. That way, the doctor can monitor the condition of the heart and notify you of the progress of the condition, whether it is worsening or improving, to you.
Your doctor will also be able to tell if you are responding to treatment or if you should undergo other, more complex treatment options
Method 3 of 4: Considering Action and Operation Options
Step 1. Discuss medical device options with your doctor
If your enlarged heart is due to heart failure or severe arrhythmias, your doctor may recommend that you use an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). The ICD is a matchbox-sized device that can help maintain a normal heart rhythm by means of an electric shock.
Your doctor may also recommend using a pacemaker to help control the contractions of the heart muscle
Step 2. Consider heart valve surgery
If damage to the valve results in an enlarged heart, your doctor may recommend surgery to install a new valve as a treatment option. During this procedure, the surgeon will remove the narrowed or damaged valve, and replace it with a new one.
- These valves can be valve tissue from a deceased donor organ, or a cow, or a pig. You can also use an artificial heart valve.
- Surgery may also be needed to repair or replace a leaky heart valve, known as valve regurgitation. This condition, which also affects the enlargement of the heart, causes blood to flow in the opposite direction.
Step 3. Ask about surgery
If your enlarged heart is due to arterial disease, you may need to have coronary artery stent surgery or heart artery bypass surgery to correct it. If you have experienced heart failure due to this enlargement, your doctor may recommend that you have left ventricular assist device (LVAD) surgery to help your weak heart pump properly.
- LVAD can be a long-term treatment option for heart failure or to prolong a patient's life while waiting for a heart transplant.
- Heart transplantation is considered a last resort for treating an enlarged heart. This option is also only considered if all other options cannot be used. Getting a heart donor is not easy, and the time it takes to wait for it can be years.
Method 4 of 4: Using Drugs
Step 1. Use an angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor class of drugs
When you are diagnosed with an enlarged heart, your doctor may prescribe an ACE inhibitor. If the enlarged heart is due to weakened heart muscle, ACE inhibitors are used to restore normal pumping function to the heart muscle. This medicine can also lower blood pressure.
Angiotensin receptor blockers (angiotensin receptor blockers or ARBs) are prescribed as another option for patients who cannot tolerate ACE inhibitors
Step 2. Treat hardening of the heart muscle with diuretics
If you have an enlarged heart, especially if it is due to cardiomyopathy, your doctor may prescribe a diuretic. These drugs will help lower the water and sodium levels in the body, and help reduce the thickness of the heart muscle.
This medicine can also lower blood pressure
Step 3. Use beta-blocking drugs, or beta-blockers
If one of the main symptoms of an enlarged heart is high blood pressure, your doctor may prescribe a beta blocker. This is determined by the condition of your body as a whole. This medication will help improve blood pressure and reduce abnormal heart rhythms, as well as lower your heart rate.
Other drugs such as digoxin are also useful for improving the pumping mechanism of the heart muscle and helping you avoid hospitalization for heart failure
Step 4. Ask your doctor for other drug options
Your doctor may also prescribe other medications to help treat your condition according to the cause. If your doctor is concerned about the risk of blood clots, he or she may prescribe an anticoagulant medication. This drug can lower the risk of blood clots that trigger strokes and heart attacks.