Millions of people around the world are diagnosed with heart valve disease each year. In America, more than 5 million people are diagnosed each year. Although the incidence of valve disease grows increases with age, the Washington University School of Medicine states that “more than 60 percent of heart valve replacement procedures are performed in women.” With early detection, advances in drug therapies and surgical interventions, the survival rate for those with valve disease has increased.
What is Heart Valve Disease?
Heart Valve Disease, in a nutshell, is a term used when one or more heart valves do not work correctly. But it’s best to first learn how the valves work.
The heart is divided into four chambers and has four valves (flaps of tissue) that help direct the flow of blood through the heart. When diseased, these valves can prolapse and cause regurgitation; stiffen and limit blood flow (also called stenosis), or fail to open (also called atresia).
What Causes Heart Valve Disease?
As we age, our risk for heart valve disease increases. Other risk factors include a family history of heart disease, autoimmune diseases (i.e. lupus), injury to the heart, infections (i.e. endocarditis), medications (i.e. Fen-Phen), obesity, diabetes, hypertension, smoking. Heart valve disease can also be congenital (present at birth).
What are the Symptoms of Heart Disease?
Symptoms of heart disease include:
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling in the feet
- Irregular heart rate
- Palpitations or fluttering
- No symptoms at all
If heart valve disease is suspected, diagnosis includes:
- Chest x-ray
- Stress test
- Cardiac MRI
- TEE (transesophageal echocardiogram)
- Cardiac catheterization
How to Treat Heart Valve Disease?
Depending on if the valve disease is caused by prolapse, atresia or regurgitation, and its severity, treatment can vary.
Treatment may begin with medications, but most likely require surgical repair or replacement. In all cases, lifestyle changes are required.
Early diagnosis and treatment play a pivotal role in the long-term outcome for people with heart valve disease. But general measures can be taken to ensure that you are doing everything in your power to increase your chance of living a long and healthy life.
Making healthy changes your diet, beginning and maintaining a healthy exercise routine, making and keeping routine doctor appointments, and managing chronic health conditions are all factors that are within everyone’s control to ensure that we maintain health.
Take a look at the video. It brings light to the importance of Heart Valve Disease education for women.
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The information in this article is to be used for informational purposes only. It is NOT to be used in place of, or in conjunction with, professional medical advice. Anyone with questions regarding this or other medical issues discussed on this site must consult their physician for further information and treatment.
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