Like any muscle an enlarged heart is caused by overwork. Bodybuilders
know that building large muscles requires that the muscles be
overworked. It is the same with the heart.
The human heart is already a workhorse. The average heart beats nearly 100,000 times per day and moves about 2,000 gallons of blood. That is quite a load. But what happens when the heart gets weaker and can not keep up with the demand?
The heart enlarges to compensate for its inability to handle the workload.
When the heart becomes too weak under increased strain it works harder. The result is often a thickening of the muscle. This might be a good adjustment for a leg muscle or an arm muscle. But for the heart muscle it is not a good thing.
Essentially there are four types of enlarged heart. The first is called…
Dilated cardiomyopathy is the most common type of cardiomyopathy
(enlarged heart). It often starts in the heart’s main pumping chamber:
the left ventricle. But it can involve all four chambers of the heart.
Over time the left ventricle can lose strength and become stretched. This stretching results in thinner ventricle walls and an enlargement of the inside of the ventricle. As the condition worsens it can affect the other heart chambers.
When the chambers of the heart dilate the heart can not pump blood as
well. The heart adjusts by further dilating its chambers making the
This often causes fluid to back up in the lungs becoming congested. This condition is known as congestive heart failure. As the heart becomes too weak to function well, other body systems can suffer - especially the lungs and liver.
There are a number of things that can contribute to dilated cardiomyopathy. The most common is coronary heart disease. Other causes include…
Other risk factors include…
Dilated cardiomyopathy (and therefore congestive heart failure) develops slowly, normally over many years. The list of symptoms is rather long and sometimes not very distinct. Some of the more common symptoms are…
Other symptoms that might indicate cardiomyopathy are…
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Are there health issues – in addition to your heart health – that concern you? Like…
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A different sort of enlarged heart is known as hypertrophic
cardiomyopathy. This form of cardiomyopathy occurs when the heart’s
muscles thicken abnormally. This thickening usually happens in the left
ventricle since it is the main pumping muscle.
Obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a thickening of the septum - the wall that divides the left and right sides of the heart - causing it to bulge into the left ventricle. The bulging of the septum blocks the flow of blood as it leaves the ventricle. The heart must work harder to force the blood past the blockage creating…
Obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy can sometimes affect the mitral valve.
The mitral valve – also known as the bicuspid or left atrioventricular
valve – lies between the left ventricle and the left atrium. When the
mitral valve is affected it allows blood to leak backwards against the
normal blood flow.
Nonobstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy does not obstruct blood flow. Rather it is a thickening of the heart muscle. If the muscle of the heart generally becomes thicker it is known as symmetric ventricular hypotrophy. When only a section of the heart muscle thickens it is called apical hypertrophy.
A third type of enlarged heart is known as…
Restrictive cardiomyopathy is most common in older adults. It occurs when normal heart muscle tissue is replaced with abnormal tissue
such as scarring. As a result the ventricles become stiff making
relaxation difficult. When the ventricles can not relax the chambers can
not fill with blood. The heart therefore pumps much less efficiently
than a normal heart.
Often the cause of restrictive cardiomyopathy is unknown. Some known diseases that can cause it are…
A fourth type of enlarged heart is known as…
It is a rare type of enlarged heart that develops when muscle tissue in
the right ventricle dies and is replaced by scar tissue. Problems with
the heart’s electrical signal develop causing arrhythmia. Unlike other
forms of an enlarged heart, ARVD normally develops in teenagers and
young adults. It often causes sudden cardiac death in young athletes.
The most common cause of dilated cardiomyopathy is coronary heart disease (CHD). The sad thing is…
CHD is preventable in many cases.
Besides leading to an enlarged heart, CHD is the number one killer of
men and women in the US and other developed countries. You can learn
more about this in the coronary heart disease section.
The most common result of an enlarged heart is congestive heart failure (CHF). You can learn more about CHF in the section on congestive heart failure.
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