The Runners Guide To Heart Mumurs

I hate to sound like a broken record, but running is a cardiovascular exercise per excellence. It helps you burn calories, improve endurance, and get in the best shape of your life.

But if you have heart murmurs, high-intensity training cannot only be uncomfortable but quite dangerous.

Would you like to learn what to do if you have heart murmurs as a runner?  Then you have come to the right place

In today’s article, I’ll look into whether you should run with a heart murmur as well as what to do about this cardiovascular condition.

Sounds great?

Let’s get started.

The Heart’s Anatomy

The heart is undoubtedly one of the most important organs in your body.

Made up of chambers and valves, your heart has one of the most important jobs: to keep your blood flowing throughout your body.

More specifically, the heart has four chambers, two upper chambers (atria), and two lower chambers (ventricles). Circulation flows through a valve before leaving each chamber of the heart. These valves function as guards that prevent the backward flow of blood.

Yes, it’s an amazing design.

What Are Heart Murmurs?

When you start hearing an alien sound other than heartbeat, this is what’s known as a heart murmur.

A heart murmur is a sound caused by turbulent circulation within your heart.  The murmur can be a rasping, blowing, or whooshing sound that occurs during a heartbeat.

In other words, it’s an abnormal noise between heartbeats.

Most heart murmurs are benign—they’re actually super common in children and young adults, but sometimes, they might indicate serious heart problems (more on this later).

Heart murmurs can occur within the normal function. They can also be triggered by a normal increase or minor issues in blood flow in the heart, mainly as a result of a change in circulation through one of the heart’s four valves.

Benign Vs. Abnormal Heart Murmurs

Heart murmurs can be divided into two kinds:

  • Benign
  • Abnormal

As the name implies, benign murmurs are not dangerous.

In some people, benign murmur can be caused by pregnancy, intense exercise, severe anemia, or fever.

Surveys show that roughly 30 percent of children and 10 percent of adults have an innocent heart murmur caused by a normal heart rate.

If you have a benign heart murmur, you definitely won’t experience any other symptoms.

However, When a heart murmur is caused by a serious heart condition, you may experience other symptoms such as:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Enlarged neck veins
  • Chronic coughing
  • Profuse sweating, especially when you’re done running.
  • Blue skin around the lips and fingertips
  • Cold clammy skin

These symptoms may indicate a serious underlying heart condition that hasn’t been diagnosed.

If you’re coming down any of these symptoms while running and/or when at rest, call 911 immediately. You need to get checked up right away. Don’t dilly dally.

Picture of Piriformis Syndrome

Heart Murmurs In Runners

In most cases, heart murmurs in runners are of the “innocent” variety.

The whooshing sound is just the sound of blood flowing through a normal, healthy heart.

What’s more?

They might indicate an improved cardiovascular function instead of a dangerous heart issue.

As you get fitter and stronger—especially aerobically, your heart might adapt by becoming somewhat enlarged.

This, in turn, allows moving a greater amount of blood on each contraction.

When To Consult A Doctor

I hate to sound like a broken record, but most heart murmurs are not a threat, unless you experience any of the abnormal symptoms, consult your doctor immediately.

The examination—preferably by a cardiologist—is likely to include an echocardiogram, which examines the function of your heart muscles and valves.

By doing this, they can determine if your heart murmurs are benign or if they do require medical attention.

How To Treat A Heart Murmur

Treating a heart murmur depends on the main cause. Benign heart murmurs don’t require any treatment, but dangerous ones need medical attention ASAP, especially if you have any symptoms, like those listed below.

  • Shortness of breath
  • Ankle swelling
  • Chest pain
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Fever or night sweats
  • Extreme exhaustion
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Chronic fatigue

Most of the latter are typically treated with medication. Serious conditions could require surgery.

Some of the most common medications used for managing and treating abnormal heart murmurs include:

  • ACE inhibitor or Beta Blockers—work great for lowering blood pressure.
  • Statins—work great for managing cholesterol.
  • Aspirin or warfarin—functions as anti-coagulants to help ward off blood clots from forming.

In extreme cases, especially when medication isn’t enough, surgery is needed. For example, if one of your heart valves needs to be replaced or has a hole in your heart, you’ll need surgery.

Running With A Heart Murmur

For the average person, having a heart murmur may mean the end of their running career, but, as we’ve seen in today’s post, that’s not inherently true.

The truth is.

If you have an innocent heart murmur, you can still keep on training in a normal way. The murmurs won’t cause you any issues.

That said, it’s always a good idea to get diagnosed by a professional and determine the root cause of the murmur. Once everything is in the clear, you can simply follow your doctor’s advice on how to stay safe and/or what to do next.

Preventative Measures For Running With Heart Murmurs

It’s always better to err on the side of caution. Take the following measures to ensure that your cardiovascular health is in check, even if you feel healthy.

  • Look into whether your family has a history of cardiovascular conditions
  • Learn how to monitor your pulse and during training for rate and regularity. I’d recommend that you learn how to use heart rate training zones.
  • Get a general annual exam which should include a chest X-Ray and an electrocardiogram (ECG).
  • Keep a healthy diet
  • And most importantly, keep running. It does your heart good but don’t push yourself too hard.

Risk Factors

You’ll be more prone to heart murmurs if someone in your family has some form of heart problem associated with the unusual sounds.

Some of these conditions include:

  • Endocarditis, which is an infection of the lining of the heart
  • Cardiomyopathy, which is the weakening of the heart muscle
  • Hypereosinophilic syndrome, which is a blood condition that involves an increased number of certain white cells.
  • Some autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
  • Heart valve diseases
  • Hyperthyroidism, an overactive thyroid.
  • Rheumatic fever
  • Pulmonary hypertension, which is high blood pressure in the lung

Conclusion

Even if you’re the fastest, fittest, and healthiest runner in the world, you’re not immune to heart conditions.

That’s why it’s always a good idea to listen to your body and follow your doctor’s advice.

Please feel free to leave your comments and questions in the section below.

In the meantime thank you for dropping by.

David D.