Harvard Heart Letter

Ask the doctor: What are the symptoms of, and tests for, an enlarged heart?

Ask the doctor

What are the symptoms of, and tests for, an enlarged heart?

Q. How would I know if I had an enlarged heart?

A. Things that make the heart work harder than usual can prompt it to enlarge.

The most important symptom that raises the question of whether an individual has an enlarged heart is shortness of breath during exertion. If you can do normal levels of activity (like carrying a 10-pound bag of groceries up a flight of stairs without stopping), then your heart is doing pretty well. But if you get short of breath with this kind of activity, then worrying about your heart's function becomes an issue. Other symptoms that can be due to an enlarged heart include fainting, swelling of the legs, or waking up at night short of breath. In some people there are no signs or symptoms at all.

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