An enlarged heart can develop as a result of high blood pressure.
High blood pressure means that your heart has to work harder at circulating blood around your body. This causes the heart muscles to thicken and increase in size which affects its normal function. An enlarged heart can lead to heart failure. Another name for an enlarged heart is ‘left ventricular hypertrophy’.
What does this mean?
Your heart is divided into four chambers, two of these being the ventricles. These are separated into the left ventricle (left chamber) and the right ventricle (right chamber).
Both of these ventricles help circulate blood around the body.
Your heart pumps blood around your body but one half of your heart works harder than the other. The right hand side of your heart takes blood which has circulated around your body and pumps it to your lungs via the pulmonary artery. Once in the lungs, the blood picks up oxygen before returning to the heart.
This oxygen rich blood is then transported back from the lungs to the left hand side of the heart which pumps this around your body.
What can go wrong?
If you have high blood pressure then this forces the left side of your heart (left ventricle) to work harder than usual. Your heart adapts to this extra pressure by becoming thicker and larger - hence the name enlarged heart.
Other causes of an enlarged heart
High blood pressure is one cause but there are several others which include:
- Heart valve problems, e.g. leaking valves
- Coronary heart disease (caused by clogged arteries)
- Thyroid disorder
- Cardiomyopathy (weakened heart muscle)
- Severe anaemia
If you have an enlarged heart and high blood pressure then you are at increased risk of a heart attack compared to someone with a normal sized heart. Plus, you also have an increased risk of a stroke or an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia).
Symptoms of an enlarged heart
This does not usually show any symptoms but some people find that they are breathless or excessively tired.
But if you have high blood pressure as well as an enlarged heart then you may display symptoms of that raised blood pressure instead. Those symptoms are likely to be detected during a blood pressure reading.
Treatment for an enlarged heart
Your GP will refer you for an ECG (electrocardiogram) which measures electrical signals in your heart and can detect any thickening of the heart muscle. He or she will also measure your blood pressure. It is possible to treat an enlarged heart and this is done in much the same way as with high blood pressure. That means you will be prescribed the same type of medication for your enlarged heart as for your high blood pressure.
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