New research offers a formula to determine ‘normal’ heart size

By American Heart Association News

New research has re-evaluated the “normal’ size of the heart, determining that standard measurements for heart size are outdated and don’t account for gender, age and body size.

Adjustments in the measurements are important because women and people of small build are at risk for delayed treatments since their enlarged heart might not be noticed using the current standards.

“These parameters need to be considered when cut-off values indicating the need for treatment or even surgery are established,” the researchers wrote in their conclusions.

The study(link opens in new window), conducted by a group of researchers at the Medical University of Vienna, looked into the new ‘normal’ size for hearts and designed a calculator to account for differences in body size, age and gender. It’s published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging.

The researchers studied heart scans of more than 600 people without cardiac disease, ages 17 to 91, and found that gender, height, weight, and age significantly impact what is a normal size for the heart.  

“The judgment whether a heart is normally sized or enlarged is of enormous importance for treatment decisions,” said Julia Mascherbauer, M.D., senior author of the paper and professor of medicine at Medical University Vienna in Austria. “Due to the lack of published indexing recommendations, clinical cardiologists at present may use the same normal range of cardiac cavity dimensions for everybody, including competitive athletes, and old, frail patients.”

For example, using a measurement from the left ventricular diameter, men averaged 46 millimeters, while women averaged 41 millimeters for the same measurement.  

An even bigger divide was seen when age and body size were added in to the mix. For example, a young, tall man measured 50.4 millimeters compared to an elderly, small woman, who measured 37.4 millimeter.

To help practitioners determine whether the heart is the correct size, the study authors designed a calculator(link opens in new window), which estimates cardiac dimensions and accounts for gender, age, height, and weight. 

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