A heart murmur is a condition where an individual's heart makes swishing or whooshing sounds during the cycle of their heartbeat. These noises are only able to be heard through a stethoscope and are caused by the turbulent movement of blood in the heart. The normal noises that are made by the heart during the heartbeat are described as 'lubb-dubb' when the valves of the heart are closing. In many cases, heart murmurs are benign and do not require any form of medical treatment. However, some patients with a heart murmur may need more extensive testing to determine if the murmur is being caused by a serious underlying heart problem. The symptoms that occur alongside a heart murmur are indicative of its underlying cause. Treatment for a heart murmur is also geared toward treating the underlying cause of the heart murmur.
Some heart murmurs can be caused by exercise and other conditions where the blood flows at a high rate of speed through the heart. This type of heart murmur is referred to as an innocent heart murmur or physiological heart murmur where the noise is present, but there are no structural defects or abnormalities in the heart. It is thought that this form of exercise-induced heart murmur is a sign of enhanced cardiovascular fitness and not a heart abnormality. The heart of an athlete who undergoes intense training may become slightly enlarged as an adaptive measure to these exercise regimens. This slight enlargement allows the heart to pump a greater volume of blood with every beat. This higher than normal amount of blood flowing through the heart upon each beat can even be as significant as a gushing noise heard through a stethoscope. This type of heart murmur is most prevalent among young individuals and those who participate in endurance and aerobic sports. The way this form of heart murmur can be distinguished from a dangerous heart murmur is by listening to the pitch and timing of the murmur.
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