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What Causes a Slightly Enlarged Heart?

author image Hannah Rice Myers
Based in Jamestown, Pa., Hannah Rice Myers has more than 10 years of experience as a freelance writer, specializing in the health industry. Many of her articles have appeared in newspapers, as well as "Curing Epilepsy: Hope Through Research." Rice Myers received her master's degree in nursing from Upstate Medical University in 2001.
What Causes a Slightly Enlarged Heart?
Caring for your heart is imperative for optimal health.

Cardiomegaly is the medical term used to describe an enlarged heart. While usually detected by an X-ray, this condition is considered a symptom of an underlying disease, such as coronary artery disease. In some cases, however, it may be a temporary condition due to stress placed on your body due to pregnancy. The Mayo Clinic states that although you may not always have the ability to prevent an enlarged heart from occurring, it is usually treatable.

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Lack of Exercise

Leading a sedentary lifestyle, according to the Better Health Channel, is one major risk factor for developing an enlarged heart, as lack of exercise can contribute to both coronary heart disease and high blood pressure. In addition, lack of exercise can contribute to obesity, another cause of an enlarged heart. Too much body fat not only places stress on your body but can also cause your blood pressure to rise. Both force your heart to work harder, resulting in its enlargement.

Congenital Heart Defects

Some people are born with certain congenital heart defects, such as a hole in the heart, which cause the heart to work harder. These defects affect the way blood flows through the heart, making it pump harder and resulting in an enlargement of the heart, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Heart Valve Disease

The heart is composed of four valves, all with the purpose of keeping the blood flowing in the right direction. Should these valves become damaged for any reason, albeit due to defects, medications or infections such as rheumatic fever, the heart may enlarge as it has to pump harder to work properly.

Weakened Heart Muscles

The American Heart Association states that conditions such as a heart attack, cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure all cause the muscles of the heart to stiffen and thicken. Over time this results both in a weakening of your heart muscles and also in an enlarged heart as it works harder to pump blood efficiently through the body.

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure causes your heart to work harder, resulting in an enlargement of your heart over time if left untreated. The American Heart Association states that many people suffer from high blood pressure for years, never even realizing it. This is because it has few or no symptoms. The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute states that a normal blood pressure is less than 120/80, while stage 1 high blood pressure is 140/90. Stage 2, or severe high blood pressure, is 160/100 or higher. You can monitor it yourself with an electronic blood pressure cuff made specifically for home monitoring purposes or have it checked regularly by your physician.

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