Enlarged Heart: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

There are two types of heart conditions – structural and electrical. A structural condition means that the heart is too big or some things are in the wrong place. The most common types of structural conditions are cardiomyopathies.

What is an enlarged heart?

You’ve probably already figured this one out. An enlarged heart means that your heart is bigger than it should be to work properly. Technically, the heart muscle thickens or the heart walls get stretched and thin out. In either case, this causes the heart to work harder than it should. Over time, this can cause serious health problems. In the short term, it can lead to sudden cardiac arrest.

What causes an enlarged heart?

Most of the time, these conditions are inherited. It is passed down from generation to generation. However, it can also be acquired. For instance, it can be acquired by a virus or a drug. This is why it is so important to know your family history! Athletes can also be more susceptible to an enlarged heart. The heart is a muscle, so just like a bicep or quad, the more a muscle gets used, the bigger it can get.

Are there any signs or symptoms for enlarged heart?

Some people with an enlarged heart don’t experience symptoms. Cardiac arrest could be the first sign which is why heart screenings are so important. However, there are warning signs, so it is important to know them.

  1. Fainting or seizure during or immediately after exercise
  2. Unexplained shortness of breath
  3. Dizziness
  4. Extreme Fatigue
  5. Racing heart (feels like it is beating out of your chest).
  6. Sudden and unexplained death of a family member under the age of 50 (e.g. drowning, auto accident, SIDS).

Download our warning signs sheet to learn more.

What are the treatment options for an enlarged heart?

The treatment for students with enlarged hearts depends on the severity of the condition. Some people will be placed on medication. Others will require medical intervention, like an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). Your doctor will evaluate your symptoms and risk to determine the right treatment for you.

What Simon’s Heart Is Doing

We believe that every student should get a heart screening. We screen our kids’ eyes and ears. Why not their hearts?

A heart screening, with a physical exam and thorough medical history, is the most effective way of detecting conditions that can lead to sudden cardiac arrest and death. Find a screening near you on our sister site, Screen Across America. For more information about Enlarged Hearts, visit our Best Resources List.