An enlarged heart isn’t a condition but a symptom of an underlying problem that is causing the heart to work harder than normal. Another name for an enlarged heart is cardiomegaly

The underlying problems of an enlarged heart range from pathological (disease of the heart muscle) to physiological (other causes that are overworking the heart muscle). Beside an associated heart problem, enlarged heart can occur temporarily due to stress, pregnancy.



In some cases, an enlarged heart has no symptoms. When symptoms occur, they are the following:

  • Breathing problems
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
  • Heart palpitations
  • Fluid retention



There are many causes of enlarged heart:

  • Atherosclerosis – the narrowed artery reduces the oxygen supply to the heart
  • High blood pressure – strains the heart because it pumps with more force
  • Idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy – when the causes are unknown
  • Myocarditis (viral infection of the heart)
  • Heart valve disease – the valve need more force to close/open
  • Cardiac ischaemia (reduced blood flow to the heart)
  • Previous heart attack weakens the heart muscle may, so it may enlarge to pump sufficient blood to the organs
  • Thyroid disease
  • Anemia
  • Obesity
  • Lack of exercise
  • Old age


Risk Factors

The risk factors of an enlarged heart are higher if you have:

  • Congenital heart disease
  • Family history
  • High blood pressure
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Valvular heart disease
  • Heart attack



Depending on the cause and the part of the enlarged heart, the following complications can develop:

  • Blood clots, which can cause heart attack, pulmonary embolism or stroke
  • Heart murmur can occur in case the heart valves don’t close properly; this is harmless
  • Heart failure is a serious complication where the heart muscle weakens and the heart can't pump blood efficiently to the organs
  • Cardiac arrest and sudden death – too slow or too fast rhythm means the heart does not beat properly, which sometimes can result in collapsing or sudden death.



Preventive measures can be taken in terms of taking care of your lifestyle, regular control of cholesterol, blood pressure, medications to prevent heart failure or heart attack.