What Is a Heart Murmur?
A proper function of your organs is vital. When there are clues that make you suspect something is wrong, you may quickly switch from calm to frantic. All organs perform necessary functions to keep our bodies healthy, but the concern is paramount when it comes to issues of the heart.
What Does a Heart Murmur Feel Like?
We’ve all heard of heart murmurs, but do you know what they are and what they mean?
A murmur occurs when there is a turbulent flow of blood in your cardiovascular system. To break that down further, it means that something is interrupting the flow of blood inside your heart, which causes edicurrents, and these currents of blood cause a shuddering.
A regular heartbeat has gentle, rhythmic thuds when your heart valves close; a murmur sounds more like a purr. You can’t usually hear your regular heartbeat without a stethoscope, and the same goes for a heart murmur.
Don’t amplify your worry if you are diagnosed with a louder murmur – volume doesn’t indicate a greater severity of a condition.
Should You Worry About a Murmur?
The cause of a heart murmur may be inconsequential, and a murmur may be harmless. Murmurs themselves are not a disease but should be checked out because heart conditions cause them.
The sound occurs when a valve doesn’t function properly as blood moves from one heart chamber to the next. Each heart chamber has valves made up of two or three leaflets which fully open to let blood pass to the next destination and close tightly afterward to prevent the backflow of blood into the heart (this is also called regurgitation).
These leaflets can either get stuck shut (called stenosis) or insufficiently stop the flow of blood because of leakage. Many defective valves are noticed due to a heart murmur.
What Causes Murmurs?
Murmurs can happen when blood flows more rapidly than normal through the heart, typically during times of exercise, pregnancy, anxiety, or growth spurts in children.
After conditions like these go away, an innocent/benign heart murmur will stop. Murmurs can indicate a more severe heart condition with the valves, for instance, a congenital heart defect (you’ve had the issue since birth) or heart valve disease.
Heart Murmur Symptoms
A heart murmur itself does not cause any symptoms or complications. The murmur is more of a lookout; it creates this cardiovascular alert to indicate another heart issue.
You won’t die from a heart murmur, but the underlying cause of a heart murmur may be a reason for concern.
Symptoms that are indicative of a heart problem or murmur include:
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- Shortness of breath
- Bluish skin
- A chronic cough
- Enlarged neck veins
- Enlarged liver
- Heavy sweating with minimal energy output
Types of Heart Murmurs
In adults, abnormal murmurs can be related to:
- Valve calcification: Hardening or thickening of valves which can occur as you get older. Valves may become narrower and make it more difficult for your blood to flow through.
- Endocarditis: Bacteria enter the heart from the bloodstream and infect the heart lining, a heart valve, or a blood vessel.
- Rheumatic Fever: This inflammatory reaction can be a result after contracting strep throat.
Abnormal heart murmurs in children may be caused by:
- Congenital heart valve abnormalities: A heart issue from birth, where the heart or blood vessels don’t develop properly.
- Holes in the septum of the heart: A hole occurs in the wall (the septum) that separates the left and right sides of the heart. The hole allows oxygen-rich blood to leak into the oxygen-poor blood.
Risk Factors and Prevention
Risk factors include a family history of a heart defect (all the more reason to be mindful of your heart and any symptoms that may present), certain medical conditions including high blood pressure, hyperthyroidism, endocarditis, and rheumatoid arthritis can increase your risk of developing a heart murmur later in life.
Given the facts about what causes a heart murmur, there isn’t much preventative action that can be taken, aside from trying to prevent the contraction of rheumatic fever.
Many children lose their murmurs as they grow. For adults, murmurs can provide a clue to a heart condition. As the underlying condition improves, the murmur may disappear.
Murmur Treatment Options
The murmur itself does not require treatment. If it indicates a more severe heart condition, physician or specialist treatment may be recommended.
If you are diagnosed with a heart murmur, your physician will collect some preliminary information, such as the volume, location, and timing of the murmur. This information will help them figure out if the murmur is innocent, or points to a more serious condition.
More severe conditions will be sent to a cardiologist (aka heart specialist). The cardiologist uses specialized tools such as an electrocardiogram (EKG), chest x-ray, cardiac catheterization, or echocardiogram to see how your heart is working and if there are any issues with the structure or heartbeat. From there, proper treatment can be mapped out which may include medication, cardiac catheterization, or surgery.
Often, heart murmurs aren’t serious. If you are concerned about your heart health, the best thing you can do is speak to your physician.
Be sure to contact them in the event of shortness of breath, persistent dizziness, occurrences of irregular heartbeat, or chest pain. When issues surrounding your heart are present, it’s better to look into them to take some corrective/preventative measures rather than wait for a big issue to present itself.
The important message of a heart murmur is to take care of your heart. Lead a healthy lifestyle, address any issues with your blood pressure or cholesterol.
Make heart smart choices when it comes to exercise and weight management. By keeping your heart healthy, you are helping cut down your chances of a future heart problem.