Enlarged Heart

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It’s always nice to hear that you have a big heart from friends, family, and other loved ones.  But when a doctor says it… it scares the bejesus out of you!

This past Monday was my annual physical and I was expecting the usual “you’re a runner and in great shape” routine.  After all that’s how it’s gone for the past 4 years, “here’s your lollipop, now get out of my office”.  Unfortunately, I was not so lucky this time.

The electrocardiogram showed warning signs for Left Ventricular Hypertrophy (LVH).  In Running Dummy terms… an enlarged heart.  :-(

The doctor said it could be a false positive due to me having a thin chest wall, but urged that I should come back in a few hours for an echocardiogram.  It would provide more details and help “catch anything serious”.  Gulp :-(

Yeah, that’s two paragraphs in a row ending with a frownie face.

Oh yeah, he also said, “let’s be safe and not run until we get the results back next week“.  Not run for a week?  Was doc smoking crack!?  I pleaded and he agreed some running would be ok, “just don’t push it”.  What other kind of running is there?  :-)

So what did I do the very next morning?  I went out and ran 10 miles as hard as I could.  I mean, I knew there was nothing wrong with me…  right?  :-?

Fast forward a week of of waiting, worrying, and thinking my heart is going to explode every time I went for a run… and the echo-cardiogram results are in.

Yes my heart is enlarged.  However, this is normal considering the amount of training I do (40-50 miles a week).  There were no signs of leakage, blockage, or any other abnormalities on my echocardiogram.  I’m not sure why doc made this initially sound like the kiss of death, but I am glad it’s now “nothing to worry about”.  He even said my heart is “quite strong”.  :-)

And in case you were wondering… everything else came back normal as well.  Total cholesterol is 137 (63 HDL, 63 LDL, 50 Triglycerides). Thyroid, iron, serum ferritin levels are all good!

After doing all my reading, I now know that enlarged hearts are fairly common among endurance athletes, but I was previously unaware of this fact.  Hal Higdon even chimed in on one of my Facebook posts to admit he also has an enlarged heart and it’s nothing to worry about!

My doctor scared the crap out of me.  He initially made it sound like a death sentence.  On the plus side… I did score two lollipops for my troubles!  That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

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12 Responses to Enlarged Heart

  1. Lisa says:

    makes sense, your heart is a muscle and when you do a ton of cardio like a lunatic your muscle will grow ;) way to go!! about the lolli pops and you will live a long life!

  2. Robyn Flores says:

    Hey there…I saw your blog link on “No Meat Athlete” and decided to stop by! I, too, have an enlarged heart due to “Athlete’s Heart Syndrome”. I run ultras and get in many miles per week similar to you! I just think of it as this: as we exercise our muscles, tissue tears down microscopically and rebuilds STRONGER….biceps, quads, calves, and even our heart – the most important muscle. (: So, congrats on having a BUFF HEART! (:

    • jsoldo says:

      Haha thanks for the compliments on my “buff heart”! :-) I was initially scared to death, but happy to find other big hearted athletes out there!

      Thanks for stopping by and be sure to stay tuned to Running Dummy for more nonsense like this! :-)

  3. Stacy says:

    Please take the diagnosis of Left Ventricular Hypertrophy more seriously. On March 2, 2011 I found my 46 year old boyfriend dead on the front porch of his house. The cause of death was Left Ventricular Hypertrophy, he had NO KNOWN SYMPTOMS other than a very off the cuff comment from a doctor years ago about slightly elevated blood pressure. Needless to say, I am devastated as are his family and friends.

    This is the same medical condition that causes seemingly healthy young athletes to drop dead on the athletic field…..I’d get a second opinion if I was you.

    • jsoldo says:


      I am so sorry to hear about you boyfriend. I am also officially terrified again.

      Was your boyfriend a runner or athelete? Was he otherwise in good health?

      I do my annual physical and everything is fine, but it probably wouldnt be a bad idea to go to a specialist just to make sure. Heart disease runs in my family, so it probably should be done anyway…

      Again, I am so sorry for your loss.


  4. erich dinkfelt says:

    I am waiting to hear my results. I was told that I could start back to running before the results were in. I was just over the limit from the EKG. I wish I could have more information.

    • jsoldo says:

      Oddly enough, most general practitioners arent super familiar with this. And with something as important as you heart, you dont want to mess around. My advice would be to see a cardiologist. If you can find one who specializes in sports medicine that would be even better. Most of the time (with runners) this is normal, but could also be a sign of some underlying condition. Good luck and let us know how you make out.

  5. Ailsa says:

    Hey I know this is a really old post but I found it when googling ‘is it ok to run with LVH’ cos today I had ECG and I showed signs of LVH but because I am in the UK it could be a month til I get a more detailed scan…. good to know it might not all be doom and gloom :D

    • jsoldo says:

      Hey Ailsa,

      Welcome to Running Dummy! Yes, this is an old post, but I get emailed a lot about this one. Which makes me think this is a more common problem than I thought. I am surprised how many doctors are not aware of the characteristic in runners.

      Most of the time, without any other indicators or heart problems in the past, this is nothing to worry about if you are in good shape and an active runner.

      Its too bad that it takes so long to get a more detailed scan, but hopefully everything will come back normal and you can put this out of your mind.

      Good luck and be sure to report back!

  6. Mark says:

    Just had my annual physical two days ago, and my doctor calls me today (a Sunday….) saying…”Nothing to worry about, but your EKG showed signs of enlarged heart….knowing you run marathons, this can be a normal condition, but I want you to get an echocardiogram…” So good to know he’s not overly concerned, but when you get a call on a Sunday from your doc – that can be pretty scary. So, of course, I’m trying to find out everything I can, and just found your post, which is somewhat reassuring…. (And, he didn’t tell me not to run in the meantime, so I guess that’s good, right?)

  7. Amy says:


    I just stumbled onto your post. I am married to a long-time runner who also has been told he has an enlarged heart from running. He was not in for a heart-related checkup when he was told this. I was first exposed to this concept when taking physiology, when the instructor alluded in a comment or two that an athlete’s enlarged heart, may not be such a good thing as we age. I am around a lot of avid runners (husband, friends), have dabbled with running myself, and had questioned the health benefits of a lot of running. “Lot of running” is subjective, I know. I’ve just finished Steven Gundry, MD’s book: Dr. Gundry’s Diet Evolution. http://www.drgundry.com and http://www.heartlunginstitute.com/
    Dr. has done groundbreaking work in cardiac medicine. The book centers around our genes, and what we tell our genes based on what we eat and how we move (too little, and even too much). We can actually turn on and off genes, based on diet and how we exercise, at any age. (Check out the term epigenetics if you’ve not heard about it. It’s pretty exciting). Dr. G talks about how he feels our cardio-focused exercise, do little for turning on the genes than lead to longevity. His book is mainly about diet, with just a few remarks about exercise here and there, but he does refer to over-exercising.
    Here’s an article I just googled, as I need to research an athlete’s enlarged heart more for my husband.
    I bet you have nothing to worry about, but always good to be as informed as possible. I highly recommend Dr. Gundry’s book, if you are interested in reading about this type of subject. He’s got the background and patient testimonials to back up his theory (getting us back to eating the way we did anywhere from 100 years ago, to 1000′s of years ago). Best Wishes to you.

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