What is left atrial enlargement?
The left atrium is one of the 4 chambers of the heart, the other three being the right ventricle, left ventricle, and the right atrium. It has a thin-walled structure which accedes blood to return to the heart. This atrium receives blood high in oxygen and low in carbon dioxide from the right and left pulmonary veins, which it pumps to the left ventricle for pumping out through the aorta for systemic circulation.
When the left atrium becomes thick and swollen, this condition is known as left atrial dilation or left atrial enlargement.
According to studies, the presence of left atrial enlargement (LAE) indicates a clinically considerable risk of adverse cardiovascular outcomes for the individual, specifically LAE has been shown to predict ischemic stroke in patients, without mitral valve disease and atrial fibrillation.
The latest research also emphasizes the important relation between stroke risk and lifestyle factors. Women and men who follow these five lifestyle behaviors (having a healthy diet – focused on plants, not smoking, getting at least 30 minutes per day of moderate physical exercise, consuming no more than one alcoholic drink per day, and having an optimal body mass index) have an 80 percent lower risk of a stroke as compared with individuals not following these behaviours.
You may experience no symptoms or signs, particularly during the early stages of this condition. Symptoms and signs include:
- severe fatigue during or after physical exercise;
- extreme tiredness in general;
- chest pain, difficulty breathing, especially when lying down;
- urination more than usual at night;
- excessive coughing at night;
- abnormal heartbeat and hypertension;
- swelling in the legs or ankles.
To confirm this condition, a cardiac ultrasound exam (echocardiogram uses sound waves to look at the shape, size, and motion of the heart) is the best method to make the diagnosis by measuring the chamber’s size. However, this test is somewhat tricky if the abnormality is only mild.
The severity of LAE can vary depending on the extent of the overall conditions. Causes of this condition include:
- the most frequent cause of any atrial enlargement is hypertension. Additionally, due to the fact that high blood pressure makes the heart work harder, it can be very strenuous for the heart. As a side effect, this excessive strain on the heart leads to a thickening of the walls of the left ventricle. As a side note, most of the symptoms and signs of hypertension are “silent,” that is most individuals do not feel any adverse effects of blood pressure that is elevated.
- obesity in another important risk factor for LAE and hypertension.
- atrial fibrillation – is an abnormal heart rhythm which can lead to heart failure, stroke, blood clots, and other heart-related complications.
- valvular heart disease: aortic regurgitation (leakage of the aortic valve each time the left ventricle relaxes), aortic stenosis (a narrowing of the aortic valve opening which obstructs blood flow from your heart into your aorta), and mitral stenosis (obstruction to left ventricular inflow at the level of mitral valve which results in less blood flows to the body).
- thyroid disorders – both an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) and an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) can lead to heart problems.
In order to ease the symptoms of LAE, it is imperative to lower your blood pressure. Prescriptions medications which are usually prescribed to treat hypertension are ACE-inhibitors and beta-blockers.
Natural ways to treat high blood pressure
According to the CDC – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hypertension is “the 2nd greatest public health threat” in the United States. Estimates are that between one-half to one-fourth of the individuals in the U.S. have hypertension, hence, they are at an increased risk of suffering from a heart attack, a stroke, or sudden death.
Here are some easy methods to lower your high blood pressure:
An impressive number of researchers, dating back to the early 1920s, concluded that complete vegetarians (no meat, dairy, or eggs) have lower blood pressure than nonvegetarians. Actually, according to some studies, adding a small quantity of meat to a plant-based diet raises hypertension levels rapidly and considerably. One reason is that most plants have no saturated fats and cholesterol.
According to AHA – American Heart Association, consuming saturated fats increases the amount of LDL (bad) cholesterol in your blood, which in turn raises your risk of stroke and heart disease. Plants are also high in potassium and magnesium, which are two important minerals in regulating blood pressure.
Think whole grains like brown rice, oatmeal, oat bran, whole wheat, quinoa, millet, but also incorporate other high-fiber foods, including fresh fruits like apples, mangos, pineapples, and raspberries, legumes (red kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, lima beans), nuts (almonds and pecans), seeds (flaxseeds and chia seeds) and vegetables (like celery, artichoke, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and broccoli).
Exercise is one of the best methods you can use to bring your tension to normal levels. If you’ve been sedentary, cycling is one the easiest ways to reduce your blood pressure.
Weight loss is one of the most effective and important lifestyle changes for controlling hypertension. Losing just 10 pounds can help reduce your blood pressure. More importantly, this effect is even greater when weight loss is paired with moderate physical exercise.
According to a recent review of 15 studies, the less you drink alcohol, the lower your blood pressure will drop.
You probably already know that smoking is bad for your lungs. Nevertheless, did you know that smoking also makes you more likely to get heart disease and hypertension?
A little bit is fine, but too much salt (which is 40 percent sodium) disrupts the balance of fluid in the body. The higher volume of liquid in your circulatory system results in the heart working harder to pump the blood, which ultimately leads to high blood pressure.
Meditation and other relaxation techniques, such as tai chi and yoga, lowers the stress hormones in the physical body that elevate renin, a kidney enzyme (and also, possibly, by the placenta) which increases blood pressure.
Chronic sleep deprivation (especially individuals who get 5 or fewer hours of sleep every night) and poor sleep quality can also lead to hypertension.
References http://www.nature.com/jhh/journal/v21/n11/full/1002236a.html https://thrombosisjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1477-9560-11-5 http://www.acc.org/about-acc/press-releases/2010/02/22/11/48/9-5 https://www.cardiosmart.org/News-and-Events/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24566947