What is Cardiomegaly?
Commonly referred to as an enlarged heart; cardiomegaly is one way some diseases physically manifest or sometimes an indication of conditions that affect the normal functioning of the body.
This enlargement is made possible by the muscular structure of the heart, which functions as a pump for blood circulated in the human body. It is, for this reason, temporary enlargement of the heart may result in cases where there is increased demand for its function.
Cardiomegaly can be seen in patients who:
Suffer from high B.P.
High blood pressure by definition refers to increased pressure in the arteries. Arteries are the blood vessels, which carry blood from the heart to the body. Common risks factors that predispose an individual to hypertension (high blood pressure) include lifestyle diseases like alcoholism and obesity. People who suffer from such lifestyle diseases may develop an enlarged heart.
Anemia and thyroid anomalies
Anemia, in simple terms is low blood count. More specifically, patients with anemia have less hemoglobin, which is the oxygen-carrying component of red blood cells. There is, therefore, an increase in demand from the heart to pump blood to compensate the short of hemoglobin. Such patients develop palpitations, which are caused by the increased heart rate and are also symptoms in cardiomegaly patients.
The thyroid, on the other hand, controls almost all metabolic processes in the body. Overproduction of the thyroid hormone leads to most thyroid disorders such as goiter, which is the enlargement of a gland. In the same way, these disorders may manifest with cardiomegaly.
Arrhythmias is irregular beating or rhythm of the heart known. This condition may be caused by changes in the heart muscles and can, therefore, manifest as an enlarged heart under a chest X-ray investigation.
Accumulation of abnormal proteins or excess iron within the tissues of the heart may be seen in people with enlarged heart. The accumulation may cause the heart to enlarge. These conditions are known as amyloidosis and hemochromatosis, respectively. 1
Patients with conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or have been in dialysis treatments for a long time are affected by amyloidosis. However, the form of accumulation that is the deposition of TTR in the heart is common in older men (Senile Systemic Amyloidosis).
Hemochromatosis, on the other hand, is a common genetic disorder among Caucasians in the US. It causes excessive accumulation of iron in the body and for those with severe symptoms, it may lead to heart failure. For such severe cases, the patient could develop cardiomegaly as a result of the heart failure.
Lack of nutrients like iron in body may contribute to conditions like anemia that has been discussed above. This situation may cause the heart to enlarge. People who practice lifestyle choices such as drug abuse and alcoholism or are under medication could also subject themselves to having an enlarged heat.
Toxins found in drugs affect organ tissues and the heart is not immune to such effects. Some medications may provoke conditions that affect either the heart function or its structure. For example, Aspirin is known to cause gastrointestinal bleeding that may manifest in anemic patients.
If you have in some temporary situations that cause stress on your body like pregnancy, there is a possibility of having an enlarged heart. Pregnancy causes increased demand for the heart’s function to maintain the fetus, which is dependent on their mother’s blood circulation for survival. Stress can cause an imbalance in the body function.
Other heart conditions
Heat conditions that lead to pericardial effusion where fluid accumulates on the sac region surrounding the heart may have cardiomelagy. In this case, the heart gives an enlarged appearance as a result of the accumulation. Cardiomyopathy is one such heart condition.
In some cases, patients may not show any symptoms, but some may have one or more of the following:
This is the swelling of the limbs due to the accumulation of fluid in the organ tissues. Organs like the heart may exhibit edema when the body retains salt which holds excess fluid in the body.
This is a result of the increased fluid retained by the heart in cases of edema.
This refers to the irregular rhythm of the heart.
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
If a patient suffers from any of the conditions associated with cardiomegaly (discussed above) and experiences some of the symptoms listed, it is important to take any imaging test such as a chest X-ray for investigation.
Treating an enlarged heart requires addressing the cause that led to it. Use of medications may prove helpful in patients with diseases like hypertension and genetic disorders like hemochromatosis.
Where lifestyle changes and natural remedies may not help, medical treatment may be the right option. A doctor will recommend the right treatment depending on the underlying cause of cardiomelagy.
If an enlarged heart if caused by a heart condition such as cardiomyopathy, medications like diuretics, beta blockers, anticoagulants, angiotensin-converting enzyme or anti-arrhythmics may be administered.4
These help in lowering the amount of water and sodium in the body, something that helps reduce pressure in heart and arteries.
These improve heart function while at the same time lowering blood pressure.
ACE inhibitors: Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors tend to reduce blood pressure and enhance the pumping capacity of the heart.
They reduce heart conditions like stroke and heart attack that may be caused by blood clots.
Help maintain the normal rhythm of the heart beat.
In situations where medication is not helping, surgery and use of heart devices may be an option. People having a high risk of developing serious arrhythmias, an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator may be used. A pacemaker to coordinate heart contractions may be used in case of dilated cardiomyopathy.
If the enlargement is due to problems with the heart valves, a heart valve surgery may be needed to repair or even replace the damaged valve. A coronary bypass surgery is recommended in situations where the enlarged heart is associated with coronary artery disease.
Lifestyle changes can also help reduce the impact of some conditions that affect the heart. This includes enrolling in programs or systems that support changing behavior including drug abuse. Obesity is largely a result of bad nutrition and ‘lazy’ behavior. Eating healthy and exercising are some of the remedies one could adopt.
In cases where medications increase the risk for cardiomegaly, stopping that particular medication and starting alternative treatment should help. People are turning to natural treatments because of the negative effects associated with chemical drugs.
The component allicin in the turmeric content is known to increase the heart’s functionality. Mixing with pepper makes it palatable and beneficial because of the properties of pepper.
This is beneficial in reducing cholesterol levels and stabilizing high blood pressure. It’s therefore perfect for patients whose enlarged heart is caused by hypertension.
Increased rest to reduce the strain on the already affected heart is important.
Increased fluid intake
Hydration by taking water is known to flush out toxins from the body.
Molasses drinks, juices made from straining mint leaves, and lemon juice are also beneficial in patients with cardiomelagy.5
These remedies combined with a healthy living will not only help in treating your enlarged heart condition but also make you enjoy other benefits associated with healthy foods. However, when the underlying conditions affect the heart valves, surgery may be the only option to correct such anomalies.
- Melisa Conrad Stoppler, MD, Enlarged Heart Symptoms & Signs. Available at http://www.medicinenet.com/enlarged_heart/symptoms.htm
- Health A- Z, Web MD. Available at http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/common-topics/h.htm
- Medicine Net news feed, Heart General. Available at http://www.medicinenet.com/rss/general/heart.xml
- Enlarged Heart, Mayo Clinic. Available at http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/enlarged-heart/home/ovc-20305820
- Seven Home Remedies for Enlarged Heart, Lady care Health. Available at http://www.ladycarehealth.com/home-remedies-for-enlarged-heart/