What Your Doctor Listens for When Checking Your Heart - Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare

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Published on July 17, 2017

What Your Doctor Listens for When Checking Your Heart

It’s a practice we’re all likely used to, whether it’s for a checkup or an illness-specific appointment. Your provider pulls out his or her stethoscope as he or she listens to different areas of your chest, you may also be asked to take several deep breaths. Have you ever wondered exactly what your provider is listening for?

The sounds our hearts make can warn of several different issues. Typically, your heart should be sounding out a regular, steady rhythm with a strong beat of about 60 to 100 times per minute. A heart sound is produced by the closing of your heart valve, a sound that is described as a “lub” noise as the valves between the atria and ventricles close and a “dub” noise as valves between the ventricles and large blood vessels close. If your provider hears a rapid or irregular heartbeat, a heart murmur or additional heart sounds, further testing could be needed to rule out the following potential issues.

Heart Murmur

A heart murmur is essentially a noise, not a specific disease. Murmurs are generated by the turbulent flow of blood inside or outside the heart. They can be innocent or abnormal. An innocent heart murmur is one that is not indicative of any underlying health problems, and may disappear over time.

Abnormal heart murmurs are often caused by valve or blood flow abnormalities. Your provider will determine whether a murmur is innocent or abnormal and a sign of a health issue by listening to your heartbeat and assessing how long the murmur lasts, when it happens, what activities prompt it, and where it is the loudest.

Rapid & Irregular Heartbeats

If your heart is beating rapidly or at irregular intervals, you might have an arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm). Your provider will determine if you require additional testing like an electrocardiogram (EKG) or a cardiac monitor.

Additional Heart Sounds

Other heart sounds may suggest heart failure. The signs and symptoms of heart failure could include shortness of breath, a persistent coughing or wheezing, shortness of breath and swelling in the legs, ankles and feet. If you are experiencing any of these, your provider will run further tests to determine what the specific problem is.

What to Do if Your Heart Rhythm is Abnormal?

If you feel that your heart rhythm is abnormal, it’s important to schedule a visit with your provider! Even if it ends up being an “innocent” murmur, you—and your heart—will benefit from the peace of mind.

Additional Information

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What Your Doctor Listens for When Checking Your Heart