The human heart is so vital to the overall wellbeing that no other organ can readily replace or duplicate its functions. The heart is such a critical organ in the body that it determines whether or not you stay alive.
From the moment an individual is born, the heart starts beating; and the rhythm continues indefinitely until the individual dies. That’s why, once the heart fails, it can signal the end unless professional help comes immediately and the individual is resuscitated. Indeed, the heartbeat is not supposed to stop for a second, telling you that this organ is to be protected jealously.
Scientists say, “In an average lifetime, the heart beats more than two and a half billion times, without ever pausing to rest!” Researchers at the United States-based Franklin Institute calculate this thus: “The average lifetime total heartbeats are based on an average of 72 beats per minute during an average lifespan of 75 years. 72 beats per minute x 60 = 4,320 beats per hour. 4,320 beats per hour x 24 = 103,680 beats per day. 103,680 beats per day x 365 = 37,843,200 beats per year. 37,843,200 beats per year x 75 = 2,838,240,000 beats in an average lifetime.” Awesome, we dare say!
Comparing it to a pumping machine, researchers say the heart provides the power needed for life. But then, a lot of things do happen to the heart in the course of a lifetime, and the heart can develop a lot of issues, placing a heavy burden on the affected person.
One of the “accidents” that can happen to the heart is enlargement, medically called cardiomegaly. Experts say the incident is a symptom of underlying disorders that a sufferer may not even be aware before the diagnosis of cardiomegaly.
Consultant Cardiologist, Dr. Kunle Pearse, says possible symptoms include breathing problems, shortness of breath, dizziness, irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), heart palpitations or fluid retention. He also warns that in some instances, an enlarged heart may even have no symptoms!
Pearse, notes that many events in life can lead to cardiomegaly, but old age happens to be one of the causes. Indeed, he says older people are at increased risk of having an enlarged heart; while he also warns that anyone may develop an enlarged heart temporarily because of a stressful condition such as pregnancy; or because of certain medical conditions.
And, according to the online portal, betterhealth.vic.gov.au, some of the many causes of enlarged heart include:
– Coronary artery disease: Here, fatty deposits (plaques) build up inside one or more of the coronary (heart) arteries. This constant ‘silting’ is called atherosclerosis and it results in narrowing of the artery. This reduces the oxygen supply, which is the fuel for the pump.
– High blood pressure (hypertension): Blood pumps with more force than usual through the arteries, which puts strain on the heart. Causes of high blood pressure include obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.
– Idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy: Disease of the heart muscle, the cause of which is unknown. Enlarged or ‘dilated’ heart is one of the most common types of cardiomyopathy. The most common symptom patients get with cardiomyopathy is shortness of breath and swelling of the ankles. Rarer symptoms include dizziness and chest pain.
– Myocarditis: An infection of the heart that is generally caused by a virus. A person may have a viral illness first and later have symptoms of congestive heart failure.
– Heart valve disease: For example, a faulty mitral valve allows blood to flow backwards, which means the affected heart chamber has to contract with more force than usual.
– Cardiac ischaemia: Reduced blood flow to the heart. This condition can cause heart pain (angina).
– Previous heart attack: A weakened heart muscle may enlarge in order to keep up with the demands of pumping blood around the body.
– Thyroid disease: The thyroid gland regulates many metabolic functions. Untreated, a thyroid condition can lead to high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol levels, irregular heartbeat and enlargement of the heart.
– Obesity: Carrying too much body fat is a risk factor for high blood pressure, which in turn can cause the heart to enlarge.
– Lack of exercise: Leading a sedentary lifestyle is a known risk factor for a range of conditions, including coronary heart disease and high blood pressure.
– Old age: As we get older, our arteries lose some of their elasticity. This ‘stiffening’ of the blood vessels causes high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for enlarged heart.
Physicians say when the heart is enlarged, it may affect the way the heart pumps blood, as it may be unable to perform this “traditional” role effectively, subsequently resulting in congestive heart failure. Pearse says though the condition may improve over time, more often than not, the majority of those who have enlarged heart will need “life-long treatment with medications.”
Reduce your risk
– Manage your weight
– Get plenty of physical activity
– Control your diet
– Reducing your cholesterol
– Avoid diabetes.