what causes a heart to become enlarged?

8 Answers

  • Bob
    Lv 5
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    There are many causes of heart enlargement. It is a compensation mechanism by the heart to try to push more blood with each contraction to make up for elevated blood pressure, increased demand due to failing lungs, leaky valves in the heart or aorta (large main artery),congenital (genetic) reasons,or diabetes. Enlargement can even occur due to athletic training to become more efficient to feed the muscular tissue. The reason the heart gets into trouble if the enlargement goes too far is that the heart muscle fibers stretch out so much that they can't get a good tug on each other to form an efficient contraction. At this point the output of blood pumped by the heart per stroke actually begins to reduce.

    (Think of this like grabbing someone's hand as in a handshake and pull them towards you. You can pull them easily in your direction. Now grab only their finger tips and try to pull them towards you again. It requires more effort on your part and they move in your direction only slightly)

    The most common cause is elevated blood pressure. Diabetes is great inducer of this. Uncontrolled blood sugars cause the arteries and arterioles to thicken so less blood can get through and cause a back-up of pressure. Also high levels of Sodium in your diet. Did you ever notice after eating ham , dill pickels, hot dogs. Immediately after, you can close your hands easily. The food is in your stomach and it is drawing fluid out of the blood to dilute the salt. One half day later or the next day after your body has absorbed all the Sodium the opposite happens, you swell up... even your rings are tight againt your fingers. At this time... go get your blood pressure taken. The rise in your pressure will astound you. It will take an average person 3 to 5 days for their kidneys to pull out the extra Sodium and the blood pressure to come back down to a more normal range. That is a long time for one insult of Sodium for the heart to be under duress.

    With all this extra fluid in the circulatory system, your heart has to work overtime to fight against the increased pressure and if it happens often enough, damage to the heart occurs by enlargening to levels where the muscle fibers only have a grip like grabbing the tips of your fingers. Anyone with enlarged heart regardless of the underlying cause should still restrict Sodium consumption to lessen the load on the heart. Total consumption should be less than or equal to 1,000 mg per day. In order to do that, you need to read the packages of food you purchase and choose wisely.

    Why are we so concerned about this? The damage is ir-reversable and it is cumulative. Each time there is damage done, there is less heart function that remains for the rest of your life and that usually translates to a much shorter life. An enlarged heart that continues to be damaged will end up in Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) and usually kidney failure soon follows.

    Foods to avoid:

    Food Sodium Content

    Hot dogs 1,000 mg

    Dill Pickes 1,100 mg

    Ham 800 mg per slice

    Sauer Kraut 1,000 mg

    Cheese 350 mg/slice

    Cottage cheese 650 mg/serving

    Salad dressings

    Lite Italian 900 mg/15 cc

    Ranch 650 mg/15 cc

    Blue Cheese 850mg/15 cc

    Basicly... if it tastes salty....it IS salty

    go to www.kenkuhl.com/fastfood/ for a Sodium content of Fast Food restaurant items

    Source(s): I am a clinical pharmacist
  • 5 years ago


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  • 4 years ago


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  • 1 decade ago

    Cardiomegaly is abnormal enlargement of the heart. It's not a disease, but a sign of an underlying problem. Many conditions can cause an enlarged heart, including:

    High blood pressure

    Heart valve disorders

    Weakness of the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy)

    Severe anemia

    Thyroid disorders

    Excessive iron in the body (hemochromatosis)

    Abnormal protein buildup in an organ (amyloidosis)

    My brother has this condition, they found it several years ago after a chest x-ray (he's 28 & doing great).

    Good luck to you!!!

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  • 1 decade ago

    I know there are several things that can cause an enlarged heart. I will list some of them here that I found searching the web, as well as a possible cause that I just read recently in my local newspaper. First, here is some information I found while searching to answer your question:


    "There are many causes of enlarged heart. It can sometimes develop as a consequence of a severely leaking heart valve. This puts more workload on the heart muscle, causing the heart to enlarge to cope with the strain, and is usually accompanied by symptoms of breathlessness. If the valve is replaced through surgery, the enlargement of the heart could be reversed over time.

    A common cause is high blood pressure. As we get older, our blood vessels loose their elasticity. They become less resistant in character, which can cause the blood pressure to rise. This causes the heart muscle to increase in size, which leads to enlargement of the heart because it has to work harder to circulate the blood.

    There may be few symptoms in the early stages of heart enlargement, unless the heart’s pumping efficiency continues to decline as a result of the increased workload.

    Enlargement of the heart can occur with cases of cardiomyopathy (disorders of the heart muscle) or coronary artery disease. It can also occur if the heart is affected by myocarditis, the result of a viral infection."


    "Cardiomegaly is abnormal enlargement of the heart. It's not a disease, but a sign of an underlying problem. Many conditions can cause an enlarged heart, including:

    High blood pressure

    Heart valve disorders

    Weakness of the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy)

    Severe anemia

    Thyroid disorders

    Excessive iron in the body (hemochromatosis)

    Abnormal protein buildup in an organ (amyloidosis)"

    Finally, the other possible cause that I mentioned, is what first came to my mind when I saw your question. I was just reading about someone who had died of a heart "event" (unsure exactly what that was as of yet), but in the course of the autopsy they had found that he had an enlarged heart---and attributed it to his frequent addiction and withdrawl CYCLE. Apparently he was addicted to various narcotics, and over the years he would INTENTIONALLY withdraw off of the narcotics, so that when he would use them again, they would be more potent and he would feel the high moreso than if he simply kept using.

    I cannot provide a source for that because it was in a local newspaper, yet it was a reputable source (county coroner) that attributed his enlarged heart to his withdrawl/addiction cycle.

    I hope that provides some insight, and some possibly helpful information for you!

  • 5 years ago

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  • Lola
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago

    When it has to work too hard to do its job it will enlarge. It could also be congenital.

    Source(s): nurse
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