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Enlarged Heart, Help!

I’ll try and keep this as brief as possible. About 6 months ago I began having strange cardiac symptoms. The first is that almost every time I eat a moderate to large meal my heart starts pounding very heavily all the way into my neck, making me feel like I’m going to have a heart attack or something. It also feels almost like somone is sitting on my chest.

The other scarier symptom is that every so often it feels like my heart just freezes up or locks up for a second or 2 and I get a sharp pain in my chest. Panic then spreads through me and then it kicks back in again. I saw a doctor who gave me a thalium stress test and and EKG and told me I was fine.

The symptoms continued so I saw a specialist. She gave me an ECG and discovered that I have a slight to moderate thickening of my heart(enlarged heart), which she attributed to years of weight training. She told me to stop lifting and do more cardio(which I already do). I still have to go back to her to evaluate the results of the heart monitor she had strapped on me for 2 weeks. She also stated that my symptoms weren’t caused by the heart thickening.

Now I’m totally confused because I don’t know what these symptoms are from and also because I thought that I read that thickening of the heart isn’t harmful if it was caused through excercise. I’m now in a panic trying to figure out what is wrong with me and if I have to stop training for the rest of my life. Someone please help.

I notice nobody has responded.

I would post this question on one of the prime time threads if I were you. I doubt most of the posters here have the expertise to help you out with this one.

hmmm… panic is part of it?

I had a friend with some odd condition like that. It was more related to stress and being able to “calm” himself. Maybe you will be that lucky too.

Yeah I was thinking the same thing, thanks.

Athletic enlarged heart syndrome is very common. Nearly every bodybuilder in your gym with any size on them, along with every sprinter and possibly every gymnastics enthusiast in the Olympics has a larger heart than “normal”. This isn’t deadly. This doesn’t shorten life in and of itself. If you have an enlarged heart because you weigh 350lbs and exercise to you means reaching across the table and grabbing that extra plate of biscuits and gravy, then that is a problem.

Your heart works on electrical impulses. It is very much like a battery in that sense as the strike of electricity at one point on the heart initiates contraction. The “skipped beat” that you feel every now and then is also not that uncommon. It is not considered a problem if there are no abnormalities on your EKG, it is a rare occurance, and it is not accompanied by sharp chest pain. Your anxiety seems to contribute more than anything, especially since you have been checked out already.

I actually experience both of these symptoms on occasion. Sometiems a big meal will make me incredibly aware of my heart beat, and sometimes I go through periods where I seem to feel my heart stop very briefly and then kick in again with a stronger beat.

However, sometimes I go through long stretches when I do not experience either of these symptoms.

I believe that stress, sleep, and caffeine are all factors.

I started with symptoms like these, and eventually started to have full on panic attacks. Then those cleared up, without any kind of medication.

Examinations even during attacks have found me perfectly fine and healthy.

So, I am prone to think there is a huge mental component and much of it is related to how well one deals with both psychological and physical stress.

Just one guy’s thoughts.

[quote]as wrote:
The other scarier symptom is that every so often it feels like my heart just freezes up or locks up for a second or 2 and I get a sharp pain in my chest. Panic then spreads through me and then it kicks back in again.[/quote]

I had similar problems (without the sharp pain) and it turns out they were caused to an allergic reaction to shrimp. I developed the allergy at a time when I had been eating about a pound of shrimp a day.

I am assuming that the specialist you saw was a cardiologist, not a tech in the stress lab. If so, I’m sure that they would have ruled out any irregularly firing nodes or cardiac synchope/arrhythmia. If it IS a node that is misfiring, they may consider cardiac ablation. The nodes MUST fire from top to bottom- in order. Your cardiologist should be on top of that, though.

There are several other causes of tachycardia (fast heartbeat), but I’d think that your cardiologist would be on top of that, as well.
I have never heard of a cardiologist recommending to stop lifting weights all together. I have heard of no strnuous, heavy lifting, but only post-op or in severe cases.

If I get the chance, I’ll jump down to one of my cath labs and ask one of the cardiologists there what they think. I’ll PM you if I find anything different than what gets posted here.

One of the Docs (ER doc, not cardiologist) here says that it could also be indigestion and that a lot of cases of indigestion are mistaken as heart problems.
Again- not knowing the full story, so it’s just worth checking.

Here’s what I contribute…Early this year, for a period of about 3-4 months, I would get chest pains on and off that were the most pronounced while I laid in bed. The more stressed I got about these pains (while lying in bed) the worse they became). I got an EKG and bloodwork, both of which were perfect. My doc gave me some acid reflux pills and I think I took two of them. The rest are sitting in our medicine cabinet. My point is, stress can exacerbate a lot of things. While in bed, I would think…“My arteries are clogged, I’m going to die of a heart attack” OR “If I die, how will my wife and kids get along” OR “At least I had three or four years with my kids” OR “Hopefully, I’ll just go in my sleep.”

I think you see my point. Funny, once the doc said my EKG was fine (and I realize that EKG’s aren’t the end all) I haven’t had the chest pains since. I am by no means suggesting that you are imagining things because it’s pretty obvious that you are not. Your mind can certainly take the ball and run, however, which can make things worse.

Thanks for your responses everyone. I’m hoping that it is stress related. I guess I’ll see when I go back for my folow up. My only concern is the panic and adrenaline rush happens after the the “freeze” and the chest pain, not before hand in order to cause it like an anxiety attack.

[quote]…almost every time I eat a moderate to large meal my heart starts pounding very heavily all the way into my neck, making me feel like I’m going to have a heart attack or something. It also feels almost like somone is sitting on my chest.

The other scarier symptom is that every so often it feels like my heart just freezes up or locks up for a second or 2 and I get a sharp pain in my chest. Panic then spreads through me and then it kicks back in again. I saw a doctor who gave me a thalium stress test and and EKG and told me I was fine.

The symptoms continued so I saw a specialist. She gave me an ECG and discovered that I have a slight to moderate thickening of my heart(enlarged heart), which she attributed to years of weight training. She told me to stop lifting and do more cardio(which I already do). I still have to go back to her to evaluate the results of the heart monitor she had strapped on me for 2 weeks. She also stated that my symptoms weren’t caused by the heart thickening.

Now I’m totally confused because I don’t know what these symptoms are from and also because I thought that I read that thickening of the heart isn’t harmful if it was caused through excercise. I’m now in a panic trying to figure out what is wrong with me and if I have to stop training for the rest of my life. Someone please help.[/quote]

Hey man, I’ve actually experienced very similar things.

The first time it happened was May 2004. I experienced strong palpitations (aka being able to ‘feel’ your heart beating in your chest) and slight tachycardia (heart rate >~100 bpm) for a couple of weeks during a fairly stressful period of my life where i wasn’t sleeping enough and was drinking alot of coffee. I would also occasionally (usually while I was training and had an elevated heart rate) have the feeling of my heart stopping/missing a beat/or kind of 'flopping around" for a beat or two and then resuming it’s normal rhythm. Like you, I was terrified I was having a heart attack or had some kind of congenital heart defect. Anyway, I went to the ER while I was experiencing the palpitations, had an EKG and a stress test the next day. Results came back normal, I was relieved, and the symptoms seemingly went away as quick as they came (I had them for about two weeks altogether).

During the last year, I would have short episodes of minor palpitations, but they never lasted very long.

Skip to this year, approximately 2 months ago, I began experiencing the same symptoms, however this time rather than leave after two weeks, they escalated, to the point where I was having nearly constant palpitations, never extremely fast, but so strong I could feel each beat in my head and fingers, and I could see the veins pulsing in my neck. I also experienced a shortness of breath during exertion during this time and felt dizzy while standing quickly. Symptoms would get worse after eating and during exercise. Naturally, I began getting anxious about this, and like your experience, this only propagated the cycle by creating an adrenaline response.

I again went to the ER and had an EKG. Normal. My doc thought it could be some type of SVT (superventricular tachycardia). I was then scheduled for a 48hr Holter Monitor and an echocardiogram.

I couldn’t get in for those tests until the next week, and in the meantime I began doing some research of my own. I found that all of my symptoms were consistent with ‘mitral valve prolapse syndrome.’

The most common symptoms associated with this syndrome are
?Chest pain
?Fatigue
?Palpitations, extra heart beat
?Lightheadedness, dizziness
?Shortness of breath
?Anxiety and/or panic attacks
?Headaches
?Low exercise tolerance
?Mood swings

as well as:

?chronically cold hands and feet
?gastrointestinal stomach disturbances
?problems with memory or a feeling of fogginess
?inability to concentrate
?problems sleeping
?numbness or tingling of the arms or legs
?arm, back, or shoulder discomfort
?difficulty swallowing
?lump in the throat

In fact, I had experienced all of this things on and off for my entire life. I told my doctor, and he said he doubted I had a prolapse, as he had down a through exam and heard no trace of a murmur. However, he didn’t rule out the possibility that I could have one and decided to wait for the echo to determine.

I go in for the exams the next week. Both the echo and the monitoring come back normal. Nothing wrong with my heart at all, besides slight thickening like you. However, there was also no mitral valve prolapse. My doc said that I appeared normal and that my symptoms were likely stress-related.

After returning to the resources I found earlier, I read that in cases of mitral prolapse syndrome, the actual prolapse of the valve is not the cause of the symptoms, rather is is merely a feature that is common in those who have the syndrome, and that something called dysautonomia is perhaps the actual cause of the symptoms. Below are two of the better websites I’ve seen:

http://www.mvprolapse.com/

http://www.nursing.wright.edu/practice/mvp/default.htm (this is where the list of symptoms above can be found)

If you’d like more, a quick search will turn up many.

Though dysautonomia is rather unknown (my doc had never heard of it) and the causes aren’t clear, there are some hypotheses that it’s related to a fault with blood volume regulation and a sensitivity to stress hormones. See here:

http://www.mvprolapse.com/dysautonomia.html

Anyway, after following the recommendations at the above site (ample water and salt intake, limiting stimulants and sugar, controlling stress, etc.), I have had no symptoms since.

As an aside, I tried ephedra-based fat burners for awhile near the end of college (about 4 years ago), and they were hell for me (in fact, I feel like they have made me more sensitive to stimulants and set me up for my experiences last year, but that’s another story)…however, I’ve used Spike and HOT-ROX with no side effects whatsoever. For someone with my tolerance to stimulants, that’s really saying something.

Sorry for the rant. Let me know if you have questions.

One other article I found helpful:

http://www.mvprolapse.com/article_glitch.html