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Is it Safe to Exercise With an Enlarged Heart?

written by: KJ Fitness,Ink • edited by: KJ Fitness,Ink • updated: 11/5/2009

Cardiomegaly, the medical term for enlarged heart, can cause serious complications. Learn about the safety of exercising with an enlarged heart and find out what questions to ask your doctor before taking on a new exercise plan.

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    The condition of having an enlarged heart is rather self-explanatory, yet can still be misunderstood. It literally involves the heart muscle getting larger due to a wide range of medical or congenital conditions. Pregnancy, cardiomyopathy, high blood pressure, low iron, high blood protein and several other factors can cause cardiomegaly.

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    What Are the Symptoms and Treatment for an Enlarged Heart?

    The symptoms of an enlarged heart include coughing, trouble breathing, feeling dizzy or lightheaded, swelling in the extremities and an irregular heart rhythm. Since an enlarged heart can be caused by so many different factors, the treatment totally depends on the underlying reason for the condition. Therefore, doctors will start by using medication, surgery, or any other appropriate interventions to reduce this temporary or chronic condition.

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    Should a Person With an Enlarged Heart Exercise?

    The symptoms of cardiomegaly can be made much more apparent and/or severe by exercise. Even a person without a heart condition can feel dizzy, lose their breath and sometimes develop an irregular heart beat during exercise. Further, the risk of cardiac arrest in which the heart suddenly stops beating, is increased when a person with an enlarged heart exercises.That is not to say that every person with an enlarged heart should completely avoid exercise. Since each case has different symptoms and different causes, there is no one right answer to that question. The solution lies in a detailed conversation with your doctor.

    Here is a list of questions to ask your cardiologist about exercising with cardiomegaly:

    1. Is it safe for me to do any physical activity other than activties of daily living?

    2. If it's not safe, when will it be and what can we do to get me to a point that I can exercise? If it is safe, what kinds of exercise can I do?

    3. What are the signals I should look for that will tell me to stop exercising?

    4. How high can I allow my heart rate to go during exercise?

    5. How often can I exercise? For how many minutes at a time?

    Be sure to write these questions down and take them with you when you visit your doctor. Even if they're in a rush, which so many doctors often are, don't leave until all your questions have been answered and you understand all the explanations. It's a good idea to take notes and/or take someone with you in case you forget something.

    Exercise is one of your best defenses against heart disease, or any disease for that matter. The other half of the coin is following a heart patient's diet. Visit myheartpatientdiet.com for a sample cardiac diet.

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    Resources

    Heart Patient Diet Resources: Myheartpatientdiet.com

    Enlarged Heart Definition: Mayo Clinic