Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Is a heart murmur caused by heart disease?"
I really want to protect myself as I have seen too many family members die from heart attack. My recent physical shows that I have a heart murmur, and of course I'm nervous.
I am really sorry that you have had family members die of heart attacks. Unfortunately, heart disease is still the number one killer of people in the United States. The good news for you is that heart murmurs and heart attacks are usually not related. A heart murmur is a sound made by blood flowing through the heart or over a valve in an turbulent way (the turbulence causes the sound). A heart attack is caused by a blockage of an artery that brings blood back to the heart muscle (a coronary artery). Heart murmurs can be normal in some people, especially well trained athletes. When a murmur is heard in a younger person, we always want to look for and rule out an enlarged heart as the cause. That is why it's important to visit a cardiologist. When a heart murmur occurs in an older person, we are usually concerned for a heart valve problem. A heart murmur does not usually lead us to think that someone is at risk for a heart attack. I suggest that you schedule an appointment with a cardiologist. He or she will likely recommend an echocardiogram which is an ultrasound of the heart. This non-invasive test is usually all that is needed to determine what is causing your heart murmur. While you are getting checked out, you can make sure your blood pressure and cholesterol are both under control as these are important factors in preventing heart attacks.
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