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Weight-Loss Software > Enlarged Heart Treatment

Enlarged Heart Treatment

Solid Science™ about Your Heart

By Terry Dunkle, DietPower Editor-In-Chief*

A well designed enlarged heart treatment regimen depends partly on what caused the enlargement.

In most cases, the heart enlarges to compensate for something that has made it pump blood less efficiently. The most common triggers are:

  • High blood pressure. Something narrows the arteries—either plaque accumulating in the walls or abnormal tensing of the wall muscles. To force enough blood through smaller pipes, the heart must grow.

  • Valve leakage. One or more of the heart valves allows some of the blood in each heartbeat to flow backwards, reducing efficiency.

  • Arrhythmia. The four chambers of the heart fail to beat in perfect sequence. As a result, blood is not efficiently shuttled from one chamber to the next.

  • Muscle stiffness. One of the chambers is unable to relax enough to accept a full load of blood before squeezing it out to the next chamber.

  • Muscle thickness. The wall between the two sides of the heart thickens, making one or more chambers too small to accept a full measure of blood between beats.

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In all of these cases, the heart enlarges to make up for inadequate blood flow. This is rather like a mechanic who, when faced with an automobile whose performance has ebbed because of a faulty spark plug or stuck brakes, enlarges the engine instead of making repairs. The solution may work—but only for a time.

Once the cause(s) are diagnosed, enlarged heart treatment usually includes some of the following:

  • Blood pressure drugs. These reduce blood pressure in several ways:

    • Beta blockers, such as metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol-XL) and carvedilol (Coreg), block adrenaline and related compounds from binding to cells that constrict blood vessels and raise heart rate.

    • Angiotensisn-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, such as enalapril (Vasotec), ramipril (Altace), captopril (Capoten), lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril), do the same by a different method.

    • Diuretics, such as furosimide (Lasix) and spironolactone (Aldactone), work by lowering your body's content of water and sodium.

  • Cholesterol-lowering drugs. These are a longer-term enlarged heart treatment. They reduce the amount of plaque-promoting cholesterol circulating in your blood. Examples are atorvastatin (Lipitor), simvastatin (Zocor), lovastatin (Mevacor), pravastatin (Pravachol), and rosuvastatin (Crestor).

  • Blood-thinning drugs. These reduce the risk of clot formation that can trigger a heart attack, which is more likely in an enlarged heart. Examples are aspirin and warfarin (Coumadin).

  • Ablation, which injects alcohol into a thickened heart muscle in order to make part of it atrophy.

  • Electronic implants, which manage the electrical signals governing the heartbeat. These include pacemakers and miniature defibrillators.

  • Valve surgery to repair malfunctions or substitute artificial valves or valves scavenged from pigs or human cadavers.

  • A heart transplant, which may be necessary when other measures fail.

In addition, heart enlargement treatment may include asking the patient to:

  • Quit smoking.
  • Lose weight.
  • Switch to a low-sodium diet.
  • Get more exercise.
  • Limit alcohol intake.
  • Get more sleep.
  • Monitor blood pressure at home.

Obviously, enlarged heart treatment often involves multiple practices and procedures. It should be carefully managed by a heart specialist.


*Terry Dunkle is a 30-year veteran medical journalist and consumer advocate who serves as CEO and chief editor at DietPower, Inc., a leading developer of nutrition software and medical news and features.

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Last modified September 19, 2010

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