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Understanding heart murmurs: A Cardiologist’s explanation

Understanding heart murmurs can feel like trying to decipher a foreign language. You’re in the heart of New York City, specifically on the stress testing Upper East Side. The hustle and bustle mirror the rhythm of a heart, sometimes smooth, sometimes with an added beat, an unexpected murmur. Much like that city pulse, a heart murmur might make you pause, unsure if it’s cause for concern. This complexity makes our hearts fascinating but it also makes understanding heart murmurs a challenge. Let’s dive in and demystify this cardiovascular conundrum.

What is a Heart Murmur?

A heart murmur is just a fancy term for an extra or unusual sound made by the heart. Instead of the standard “lub-dub” we associate with a beating heart, there’s an extra noise. It’s like a jazz drummer adding an unexpected beat. But unlike jazz, this beat might signify a problem.

Types of Heart Murmurs

Not all heart murmurs are a cause for concern. Some of them are innocent, happening when blood flows more rapidly than normal through the heart. These are like the sounds of a city street at rush hour. Loud, fast, but perfectly normal.

  • Innocent Murmurs: Usually found in children and young adults. They’re the equivalent of growing pains in the heart.
  • Abnormal Murmurs: These are the ones that may indicate a more serious heart condition. Think of them as a traffic jam. A sign that something isn’t flowing as it should be.

The Causes

Abnormal heart murmurs can occur for a variety of reasons. Age, certain illnesses, or a birth defect can all cause them. It’s like a pothole on a road. It can happen over time, because of bad weather, or it was just there from the start.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Listening to your heart using a stethoscope is the first step in diagnosing a heart murmur. It’s like a mechanic listening to your car’s engine. If something sounds off, they might use more tests to see what’s wrong. In our case, that could mean an echocardiogram or a chest X-ray.

As for treatment, if the murmur is innocent, no treatment is needed. It’s like having a noisy neighbor. Annoying, maybe, but not harmful. If it’s an abnormal murmur, treatment will depend on the cause. It might be as simple as medication, or it could involve surgery. It’s like fixing that pothole. Some can be patched, others require a whole road resurfacing.


Heart murmurs can be intimidating, but they’re just your heart’s way of talking. It’s our job to listen and understand what it’s trying to say. So, don’t let the hustle and bustle scare you. Embrace the rhythm, the beat, and the murmur of life.