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What Your Heart Murmur is Trying to Tell You

Heart murmurs are sounds produced by the turbulent flow of blood through the heart. Find out if it can indicate a more serious condition.

A woman placing her hands on her chest to check her heart murmurs.

Hearing a heart murmur instead of the familiar and comforting “lubb-dubb” sound of our heartbeat can be alarming. Heart murmurs are wooshing, or swishing sounds caused by turbulence as the blood flows through the heart. They are usually heard through a stethoscope placed on the chest. However, while they may be harmless at times, they may also indicate severe heart disease.

Heart murmurs may be detected at birth or in later life. Sometimes, a heart murmur present at birth may disappear as the child grows. Read on to learn more about what heart murmurs mean and what causes them. 

Causes of Heart Murmurs 

A doctor checking the heartbeat of a young boy.
Children with birth defects may have heart murmurs at birth.

Heart murmurs are caused by rapid and choppy blood flow through the heart. They can be classified as either innocent or worrisome. Innocent heart murmurs can be caused by things that affect blood flow. These include fever, anaemia, during phases of rapid growth such as the teenage years, exercise, or pregnancy. Such murmurs usually go away with time or may continue without causing any other problems. They are commonly seen in newborns and children. 

On the other hand, worrisome heart murmurs may signal the presence of heart defects that have been present since birth in children. In adults, heart murmurs may develop due to damage to the heart valves due to calcium deposits, infection of the heart lining or endocarditis or as a complication of rheumatic fever. Hence, you should never ignore or take heart murmurs lightly. 

Living a healthy lifestyle can help to prevent heart murmurs in adults. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) points to work stress, poor work-life balance, sedentary lifestyle, emotional disturbances, unhealthy diet, and undesirable habits as a cause for heart murmurs.

Real Health Medical’s Senior TCM Physician Brandon Yew explains that a poor lifestyle can cause the formation and accumulation of pathogenic factors. These are Cold, Fire, Dampness, phlegm, Stagnated Qi, fluid retention, and blood clots. 

“If these issues are not promptly resolved, they can lead to Yang and Qi Deficiencies of the Heart. The Liver, Spleen, Lungs, and Kidneys can also be involved in more serious cases.”

TCM Physician Brandon Yew

Managing Heart Murmurs 

Be particularly wary of heart murmurs if they are accompanied by symptoms such as blue or grey fingernails and lips, chest pain, cough, dizziness, sweating or breathlessness. It is best to get a check-up to make sure it does not indicate a severe illness. Your doctor will evaluate your heart structure and functioning with tests like chest X-rays, electrocardiogram (ECG), and echocardiography.

Medical treatment 

If the murmur turns out harmless, you may need no further treatment. However, you may have to take medication to prevent blood clots and reduce blood pressure if you’re diagnosed with a heart defect. You may even have to undergo heart surgery to repair the defect.

Surgery being performed with a monitor showing the heart parameters.
If a heart murmur is caused due to defects in the structure of the heart, it may need to be surgically repaired.

Herbal remedies 

TCM remedies may help resolve symptoms accompanying heart murmurs such as difficulty sleeping, chest pain, and chronic fatigue.

One recommended herb is lingzhi mushroom, which you can take in the form of pills or powder. It helps calm the mind and nerves and improves blood circulation.

However, it’s crucial to seek guidance from a licensed TCM practitioner. They can identify the ideal treatment based on a patient’s unique body constitution and syndrome.

Physician Brandon recommends the following herbal remedies to his patients. 

  • Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang (血府逐瘀汤): Breaks up blood clots and increases energy, restores and bolsters blood, improves circulation to the Liver and Heart.  
  • Gua Lou Xie Bai Ban Xia Tang (瓜蒌薤白半夏汤): Clears congestion in the Spleen, allowing easier breathing, improves blood circulation to the Heart.  
  • Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang (苓桂术甘汤) and Zhen Wu Tang (真武汤): Restores balance to the body, detoxifies and removes fluid retention, improves blood and fluid circulation to the Heart.  

Acupressure 

Acupressure is an easy self-help remedy that can help relieve symptoms associated with a heart murmur. Massage the following acupoints with a massage stick or your finger until it feels sore.  

  • Dan zhong (RN17, 膻中): Relieves heaviness in the chest and improves balance in the body and blood circulation to the Heart and Lungs.  
  • He gu (LI4, 合谷): Encourages circulation in the body, restores and boosts balance and blood circulation to the Heart and Lungs.  
  • Nei guan (PC6, 内关): Strengthens the Heart, removes blood clots, and restores and boosts blood circulation to the Heart. 
  • Yin ling quan (SP9, 阴陵泉): Removes a heavy feeling in the body and fluid retention, strengthens the Spleen, and restores and boosts circulation to the Heart. 
  • Zu san li (ST36, 足三里) and feng long (ST40, 丰隆): Clears excess fluids in the body, strengthens the Stomach, and restores and boosts circulation and blood to the Heart.  
  • Tai chong (LR3, 太冲): Targets to Liver to encourage balance and calmness, removes blood clots, restores and boosts circulation and blood to the Heart.  

Consider a heart murmur as your heart talking and telling you it needs care. Have a medical professional evaluate you for heart disease and relook your lifestyle. Leading a healthy life and preventing disease can help you lead a productive and fulfilling life, even with a heart murmur.

References

  1. American Family Physician. 2011. Evaluation and Management of Heart Murmurs in Children. [online] Available at: https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2011/1001/p793.html. Accessed 9 Jan 2023. 
  2. Pediatrics in Review. 2007. Heart Murmurs. [online] Available at: https://scholar.google.co.in/scholar?hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C5&q=heart+murmurs+&btnG=#d=gs_cit&t=1673246755130&u=%2Fscholar%3Fq%3Dinfo%3AN24Z8Wde2YUJ%3Ascholar.google.com%2F%26output%3Dcite%26scirp%3D3%26hl%3Den. Accessed 9 Jan 2023 
  3. American Family Physician. 1999. Heart Murmurs in Pediatric Patients: When Do You refer? [online] Available at: https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/1999/0801/p558.html. Accessed 9 Jan 2023 

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