Murmurs, to put it simply are the flowing sounds of turbulent blood during your heartbeats. Your heart's valves control the regulation of blood into the heart's upper and lower chambers (atria and ventricles). Murmurs are caused due to problems in these valves, which can force your heart to pump blood faster than usual in an effort to quickly process larger quantities of blood.
Murmurs can also be caused due to congenital heart problems, old age and other heart conditions. They are usually harmless and don’t require any treatment, barring a few exceptions.
Understanding the Causes of Heart Murmurs
Your heart can beat faster and make murmurs if you suffer from complications like:
- Elevated Blood Pressure
- High Fever
- Pregnancy Complications
You can also have murmurs due to heart valve issues like:
You could have heart problems due to birth defects, like holes in the heart, and defective valves, which can cause side effects like heart murmurs.
The mitral valve regulates the flow of blood from the atrium, to the ventricle. Murmurs are caused when the mitral valve regurgitates blood due to a failure to close (Mitral Prolapse) and causes the heart to beat faster, in an effort to force blood into your damaged valve. Aortic regurgitation is a similar phenomenon where the blood flows the wrong way up to your aortic valve.
Heart murmurs are a common sign in the aged due to the gradual hardening of their aortic valves (Sclerosis) and affect one in three people. Common symptoms are sharp pains in the chest and difficulty in breathing due to increased heart activity.
Stenosis is a problem caused by the narrowing of the left-hand valves of your heart. The condition causes murmurs as your heart beats harder in an effort to overcompensate for the narrower valves. The condition can be congenital, age-related or due to scars from fever-related infections.
How Are Heart Murmurs Diagnosed?
Murmurs can be easily diagnosed with a stethoscope hearing during a routine physical examination. Doctors can then deduce if the problem is congenital or acquired by means of tests like:
- X-rays: To spot any physical abnormalities in the heart/valves.
- Echocardiograms or Cardiac Echo’s: Charts the heart's structure using audio waves.
- Electrocardiography (ECG): Maps the heart by its electrical activity.
Can You Prevent Heart Murmurs?
Heart murmurs are usually a side effect of a larger problem, some of which (like high blood pressure) are not only avoidable but also treatable with early intervention.
How Are Heart Murmurs Treated?
Common treatments for heart murmur related issues are:
- Medicines to manage heart palpitations, and lower blood pressure.
- Anti-clotting agents to prevent blood clots.
- Diuretics that expel excess water and salt in your body and help the heart pump blood efficiently.
- Corrective surgery for congenital defects and defective valves.