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Jansen Panettiere, brother of Hayden, died of 'enlarged heart.' What to know about cardiomegaly

Jansen Panettiere, the late actor and brother of Hayden Panettiere, died due to an enlarged heart and aortic complications, his family said in a statement.
/ Source: TODAY

Jansen Panettiere, late actor and brother of Hayden Panettiere, died of an enlarged heart, according to a statement from his family. The update on his cause of death comes one week after Panettiere died in New York City on Sunday, Feb. 19.

“It is with great sorrow we share the tremendous, untimely loss of our beautiful Jansen. Though it offers little solace, the Medical Examiner reported Jansen’s sudden passing was due to cardiomegaly (enlarged heart,) coupled with aortic valve complications," a statement from the family to TODAY read.

Panettiere is survived by his older sister, “Scream IV” star Hayden Panettiere, and parents Lesley Vogel and Alan “Skip” Panettiere.

"Jansen’s heart could be seen in his eyes, and his charm in his brilliant, engaging smile; his soul in his masterful and revealing paintings, and the joy of life in his dry wit. His charisma, warmth, compassion for others, and his creative spirit will live forever in our hearts and in the hearts of all whom he encountered," the statement continued.

"We sincerely appreciate the outpouring of love and support towards our family as we navigate this unthinkable loss, and ask that we be gifted our privacy during this time of mourning. We love you so much Jansen and you will be in our hearts forever. ”

Variety reported that he was 28 at the time of his death. TODAY could not independently confirm his age.

The late actor is known for acting alongside his sister in Disney Channel movies "Tiger Cruise" and "Racing Stripes," as well as his roles in "Ice Age: The Meltdown" and the AMC series "The Walking Dead." Panettiere was also an artist and regularly posted his paintings and clothing designs on his Instagram page.

What is an enlarged heart ?

An enlarged heart, also known as cardiomegaly, is not a disease itself but a sign of another condition, according to the Mayo Clinic.

It can be caused by any condition that makes the heart pump harder than usual or damages the heart muscle — both of which can cause the entire heart or parts of the heart to become unusually large, thick or stretched, per the Cleveland Clinic.

The most common cause of an enlarged heart is coronary artery disease, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Other conditions commonly associated with cardiomegaly include (but are not limited to): congenital heart disease, pregnancy, heart valve disease, myocarditis, anemia, arrhythmia, thyroid disorders, pulmonary hypertension, kidney failure and cardiomyopathy.

An enlarged heart is often diagnosed through a variety of tests, which may include a chest X-ray, MRI, cardiac CT scan, electrocardiogram or stress test, per the Cleveland Clinic. Doctors may also perform additional tests to rule out other conditions and determine the underlying cause.

Some people have no signs or symptoms of cardiomegaly, per the Mayo Clinic, but others may experience:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia)
  • Swelling of the belly or lungs

The Panettiere family did not elaborate on the underlying cause of the late actor's condition, but did mention he suffered from aortic valve complications — which occur when the aorta (the main artery that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body) does not function properly, per the Mayo Clinic.

Treatment of an enlarged heart will depend on what is causing the condition, but it often involves lifestyle changes, medication, surgery or a combination of these. The condition can be managed effectively, but early detection and treatment are key.

Complications of an enlarged heart can include blood clots (which may lead to heart attack or stroke), heart failure, a heart murmur or sudden cardiac death, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Certain people have a higher risk of developing cardiomegaly. These include people with a family history of an enlarged heart, a history of heart attacks, high blood pressure, an alcohol use or a substance use disorder, and a sedentary lifestyle, per the Cleveland Clinic.

Always talk to a healthcare provider if you have concerns about your heart and call 911 or seek immediate medical attention if you have symptoms of a heart attack — according to the Mayo Clinic, these include chest pain, severe shortness of breath, and discomfort in one or both arms, the neck, jaw, back or stomach.