Valvular heart disease is a general term used for any abnormality that affects one or more of the valves in your heart. The type of heart valve disease depends on which valve is affected and in what way. The four heart valves, which keep blood flowing in the right direction, are the mitral, tricuspid, pulmonary and aortic valves. Each valve has flaps that open and close with each heartbeat. If one or more of the valves fail to open or close properly, the blood flow through your heart is disrupted. The diseases that can affect these valves are stenosis (the valve does not open correctly), regurgitation (the valve does not close properly) and atresia (the valve does not have an opening for blood to flow through it). Heart valve disease can be congenital, present at birth, or acquired, which is it developed after birth. Some risk factors for acquired valvular heart disease are age, gender, family history, lifestyle habits (obesity, smoking, unhealthy eating) and other medication conditions (diabetes, hypertension, lupus, etc.).
Symptoms of heart valve disease can sometimes appear as other ailments such as dizziness and fatigue, while others can be concerning like an irregular heartbeat and fainting. Other symptoms include swelling, especially of the ankles and feet and shortness of breath. In order to diagnose valvular disease a specialist, called a cardiologist, will complete a series of noninvasive procedures such as listening to the heart beat, electrocardiogram (measures the heart waves) and echocardiography (picture of the heart in motion), chest X-ray, cardiac MRI and stress test. Treatment is based on the symptoms, severity of the condition and if the condition is progressively getting worse. Treatments include healthy living, such as exercising, weight loss and maintaining blood pressure and cholesterol. Medication, such as digoxin, calcium channel blockers or beta-blockers, may also be prescribed to help control the symptoms. Medications will not cure the disease but they can help to control the symptoms. If the condition continues to worsen, there are surgical interventions which include heart valve repair or replacement. It is vitally important to treat this disease because if untreated long-term complications include heart failure, stroke, blood clots and death.
Heart valve disease. Mayo Clinic. (2021, September 21). Retrieved December 30, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-valve-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20353727
National Heart Valve Disease Awareness Day. Alliance for Aging Research. (n.d.). Retrieved December 30, 2022, from https://www.agingresearch.org/events/national-heart-valve-disease-awareness-day/