Don’t Ignore These 5 Signs Of Heart Valve Disease
Do you ever get the sense that somethings “just not right?” Do you chalk it up to getting older? Aging naturally causes a lot of physical changes, so its tempting to write them off as you would the occasional wrinkle or gray hair.
Some of these changes, however, are warning signs of serious heart problems clogged coronary arteries, irregular heartbeat, heart valve damage or even heart failure yet they can easily be misattributed to stress, a sedentary lifestyle or weight gain. These five red flags should never be ignored, and are all caused by the same culprit:
How Can I Take Care Of Myself With A Leaky Heart Valve
A leaky valve can contribute to heart failure and cardiac arrest. So you should take good care of yourself to improve your overall heart health. The following lifestyle changes can help ease the symptoms and prevent more serious heart problems:
- Avoid alcohol, smoking and illegal drugs.
- Eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet, avoiding too much salt or fat.
- Exercise: Start slowly, and always warm up and cool down.
- Follow your treatment plan carefully, including getting all tests that were ordered and taking all medications as prescribed.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Reduce stress and get plenty of rest.
Taking Action Against Fluid Retention
If you gain more than 2 pounds in a day or 4 pounds in a week, Dr. Eldrin advises taking these steps:
- Think about the foods you ate in the days before your weight gain and look for sources of extra sodium or fluid in your diet that you may be able to eliminate.
- If your weight doesn’t return to normal in a day or two, call your doctor or nurse for advice. You may need to increase your diuretic medicine or reconsider how much fluid you are drinking.
Meet Your Mitral Valve
Your mitral valve makes sure that blood flows smoothly from your hearts upper left chamber into your lower left chamber , which then pumps oxygenated blood throughout your body. If there is a structural problem with this valve, small amounts of blood can flow back into the left atrium, a condition known as mitral regurgitation. The valve can also become narrowed and not open properly . Over time, these malfunctions can become life-threatening.
“Heart valve disease, irregular heart rhythms and diseases of the coronary arteries can be interconnected,” explains Anupama Shivaraju, MD, interventional cardiologist and structural heart program director at AMITA Health Resurrection Medical Center Chicago. “Sometimes fixing one might help another. For example, repairing the mitral valve can significantly reduce the risk of persistent atrial fibrillation , which can cause a fatal stroke.”
How Would I Know If I Am Having Symptoms Of Valve Disease
Some people have no symptoms, yet they can still have a valve problem that needs treatment.
Some people suddenly experience very noticeable symptoms. Valve disease symptoms can also develop very quickly if the condition is severe.
For some people, the disease progresses very slowly, and the heart is able to compensate over time so that the symptoms are barely noticeable.
However, the risk and damage may still be significant, so education and awareness about the possible causes for a gradual onset of symptoms is important for patients who may be at risk.
) so you can track your symptoms over time. A change in symptoms is important to discuss with your health care provider.
Some physical signs of heart valve disease can include:
- Chest pain or palpitations
- Shortness of breath, difficulty catching your breath, fatigue, weakness, or inability to maintain regular activity level
- Lightheadedness or fainting
- Swollen ankles, feet or abdomen
Symptoms don’t necessarily determine the seriousness of a persons valve problems.
A valve problem can be severe with no symptoms. A valve problem also can be insignificant in terms of leakage, but problematic because of the uncomfortable symptoms. It’s important to tell your health care provider any time you notice new or irregular symptoms that may relate to your condition.
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What Is Mitral Valve Prolapse What Causes It And What Does It Look Like
Mitral valve prolapse is the most common heart valve abnormality. The condition is slightly more prevalent in women than in men. The mitral valve is one of the four heart valves. A normal mitral valve consists of two thin leaflets, located between the left atrium and the left ventricle of the heart. Mitral valve leaflets, shaped like parachutes, are attached to the inner wall of the left ventricle by a series of strings called “chordae.” When the ventricles contract, the mitral valve leaflets close snugly and prevent the backflow of blood from the left ventricle into the left atrium. When the ventricles relax, the valves open to allow oxygenated blood from the lungs to fill the left ventricle.
In mitral valve prolapse, the mitral apparatus becomes affected by a process called myxomatous degeneration. In myxomatous degeneration, the structural protein collagen forms abnormally and causes thickening, enlargement, and redundancy of the leaflets and chordae. Blood normally flows through the mitral valve from the left upper chamber to the left lower chamber of the heart. When the ventricles contract, the redundant leaflets prolapse into the left atrium, sometimes allowing leakage of blood through the valve opening back into the left atrium. When severe, mitral regurgitation can lead to heart failure and abnormal heart rhythms. Most people are unaware of the prolapsing of the mitral valve. However, others may experience a number of symptoms.
Low Heart Rate Variability
A study conducted in 2011 looked into sleep patterns in people with ME/CFS in order to better understand the common symptom of unrefreshing sleep. They found, that people with ME/CFS had little variation in their heart rate from day to night, a condition known as low heart rate variability .
To understand this, feel your pulse and then breathe in and out slowly. You’ll notice that your heart rate changes slightly, faster when you breathe in and slower when you breathe out. That’s heart rate variability.
A low night-time HRV suggests that there may be a problem with the regulation of the heart’s natural pacemaker . This is in line with the theory that ME/CFS could be caused, at least in part, by flaws in the autonomic nervous system, which regulates automatic functions such as breathing, digestion, and heart rate.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Different Types Of Heart Disease
Chest pain from the heart muscle because it doesnt have adequate oxygen and nutrient-rich arterial blood flow, also called angina, is a common symptom of heart disease. Angina causes you to feel discomfort in your chest. Some people experience tightness or a squeezing sensation around their breastbone. The pain may radiate to the neck, down the shoulder and arms or upper abdomen, or into the upper back.
If youre very tired or have difficulty catching your breath after minor exertion, you may have symptoms of heart disease. These symptoms typically ease with rest.
Women often experience different symptoms than men. For example, women may have:
- fainting episodes
Women may not recognize the symptoms of heart disease. This is because their symptoms may also occur with other illnesses. Women also tend to have other risk factors, such as depression, stress, and menopause.
What Causes Heart Valve Damage
The causes of heart valve damage vary depending on the type of disease present, and may include the following:
Changes in the heart valve structure due to aging
Coronary artery disease and heart attack
Heart valve infection
The mitral and aortic valves are most often affected by heart valve disease. Some of the more common heart valve diseases include:
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Recognized By Us News & World Report
UT Southwestern Medical Center has earned High Performing recognition for aortic valve surgery from U.S. News & World Report, placing us among the countrys leading hospitals for this procedure.
With UT Southwestern Medical Center’s minimally invasive techniques to fix heart valve disease, youll recover more quickly and feel better faster.
We offer a variety of approaches to treat heart valve disorders, with a focus on minimally invasive surgery.
Four valves in the heart control blood flow. These valves make sure that blood flows in the right direction through the heart by opening and closing at the right time. When theres a problem with a valve, there’s a heart valve disorder.
Heart valve disorders make the heart work harder. As a result patients may feel tired or short of breath. UT Southwesterns heart experts are focused on fixing heart valve disorders so patients feel better and have more energy.
Valve disease treatment has improved dramatically over the past 15 years, from being able to replace faulty valves with prosthetics to today, where we are now able to surgically repair the valves without cracking the chest .
Through minimally invasive surgery, we need to make only a 2-inch incision to repair or replace a valve, and the recovery time is reduced to 10 days versus six weeks for traditional open surgery. Weve performed more of these procedures than others in North Texas, and UT Southwestern is leading the advancement of additional new treatments.
Fluid Retention: What It Can Mean For Your Heart
Fluid buildup indicates worsening heart failure. Learn how to spot it and treat it early.
The buildup of excess fluid in your body can take a variety of forms from belly bloating and swollen ankles to nausea, persistent coughing and fatigue. You may be tempted initially to dismiss this hodgepodge of problems as having little to do with your heart. However, they all signal water retention, which can mean trouble for people with a history of heart failure.
“Fluid buildup can quickly escalate into a life-threatening situation,” says Dr. Eldrin Lewis, a heart failure specialist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Heart failure may start with injury from a heart attack or develop as a result of damaged valves, infection or disease of the heart muscle cells. Many times, it is the product of years of toil against high blood pressure and clogged arteries. Regardless of what triggers the decline, heart failure culminates in a progressive weakening of your heart’s power to pump.
Consequently, blood circulates through your heart and body more slowly your cells thirst for fresh oxygen and nutrients. To compensate for its weakened state, the heart undergoes a series of structural transformations. Other physical processes also come into play. When the kidneys detect the diminished blood flow, they activate hormones that prompt the body to retain fluid and sodium in an effort to boost the volume of blood in circulation.
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How Can I Reduce My Risk Of Heart Valve Leakage
You can’t prevent most causes of heart valve regurgitation. But you can reduce the chance of all heart conditions by taking good care of yourself:
- Eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet.
- Exercise regularly.
- Get enough rest.
- Limit or eliminate unhealthy things such as alcohol, illegal drugs, smoking, and foods high in fat or salt.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
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What Tests Will Be Done To Diagnose Heart Valve Disease
Tests for heart valve disease diagnosis include:
- Echocardiogram A moving image of your hearts valves and chambers using sound waves from a handheld wand placed on your chest.
- Transesophageal echocardiogram An ultrasound of your heart, performed by inserting a probe with an ultrasound transducer down your esophagus. This can provide clearer images than a regular echocardiogram because the esophagus sits very close to the heart.
- Exercise stress echocardiogram After walking on a treadmill or riding a bike, an echocardiogram is performed to see how the valves and heart function respond to exercise.
- Chest X-ray A quick X-ray scan of your chest.
- Cardiac catheterization X-ray movies of your coronary arteries, heart chambers and heart valves. An injection of contrast dye into a catheter in your arm or leg helps produce the images.
- Electrocardiogram Using small electrode patches attached to your skin to get the information, this records the electrical activity of your heart on graph paper.
- Magnetic resonance imaging Radio waves and a magnet work together to create high-quality images of your heart.
What Causes Leaky Heart Valves
The causes of leaky heart valves vary with each heart valve.
Causes of a leaky aortic valve include:
- The congenital bicuspid aortic valve, in which there are two flaps instead of three. It is present from birth
- Rheumatic heart disease, a complication of rheumatic fever
Causes of a leaky mitral valve include:
- Rheumatic heart disease
Causes of a leaky tricuspid valve:
Many healthy adults may have a slightly leaky tricuspid valve, which usually causes no problems and often does not require treatment or follow-up. One of the main causes of tricuspid valve leak is pulmonary hypertension.
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When To See A Healthcare Provider
The symptoms most commonly caused by heart disease can also be produced by other medical conditions, from very serious to entirely benign. If you experience any of the above symptoms, you need an evaluation by your healthcare provider to identify the cause. These are symptoms that should never be ignored.
Additionally, if you’re having any difficulty getting an erection, especially if the problem has been gradual, this is nearly always one of the first signs of either heart disease or diabetes in men. Be sure to see your healthcare provider as soon as you notice any problem with erectile dysfunction.
If you have a family history of heart disease or you’re worried about your risk for developing it, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider. Staying proactive where your heart health is concerned can help you detect any problems early, giving you a better potential outcome.
Heart Disease Doctor Discussion Guide
Get our printable guide for your next healthcare provider’s appointment to help you ask the right questions.
When Should I See My Healthcare Provider
Youll need to schedule regular follow-up appointments with your cardiologist to make sure your heart valves work as they should. Ask your provider how frequent these appointments should be. Contact your provider sooner if your symptoms become more severe or frequent. You should also tell your provider if you have infective endocarditis.
You may also need to repeat tests, such as an echocardiogram.
When should I go to the ER?
You should call 911 if you have these symptoms after heart valve surgery:
- Heart rate of more than 150 beats a minute.
- Severe headache or arm/leg weakness/numbness without warning.
- Shortness of breath that doesnt get better with rest.
- Bright red blood in what you cough.
- Dark black stool or bright red blood in your stool.
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Tricky Heart May Cause Chronic Fatigue
Abnormal Heart Pumping After Exercise Linked to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Nobody is sure what causes chronic fatigue syndrome. As more becomes known, it’s likely that some chronic fatigue patients will turn out to have different underlying problems than others. One major symptom, however, is feeling bad after exercise for more than 24 hours.
To Arnold Peckerman, MD, that sounds a lot like a blood circulation problem seen in some heart patients. These patients have something called left ventricular dysfunction, in which the main pumping chamber of the heart is weak. When you exercise, your heart pumps out more blood. But these patients’ hearts actually pump less blood.
Peckerman’s research team at the VA Medical Center in East Orange, N.J., used a sophisticated test to measure how well the heart pumps blood. They gave the test to 16 chronic fatigue syndrome patients, both before and after they exercised. They also tested four non-athletic volunteers. All of the patients’ and volunteers’ hearts’ pumped normally during rest. After exercise, however, 13 of the 16 chronic fatigue patients’ hearts pumped less blood than they did at rest.
What’s happening to the hearts of people with chronic fatigue syndrome? It’s too soon to tell, but Peckerman has a theory.
How Is Heart Valve Disease Treated
A heart valve problem can be serious if its not treated. Although you cant undo damage to a heart valve, you can treat the issue.
Heart valve disease treatments depend on the underlying cause and may include:
- Protecting your valve from further damage.
- Taking medications.
- Having surgery or invasive procedures if necessary.
- Seeing your heart doctor for regular visits.
The decision to prescribe medical treatment, surgical repair or surgical replacement depends on several factors, including:
- The type of valve disease.
- The severity of the damage.
- Your age.
- Your medical history.
If youre pregnant and have heart valve disease, you can get extra rest and/or take certain medicines that are safe for your baby.
If you know about your valve disease before pregnancy, you should ask your healthcare provider if any tests or visits with a cardiologist are recommended before trying to become pregnant. This can help ensure that you are treated appropriately before and during pregnancy. If you have a severe valve problem, your doctor may recommend valve repair or replacement before pregnancy.
Surgical repair or replacement
Heart valve disease is a mechanical problem in the opening or closing of the leaflets, and you may eventually need surgery to repair or replace your valve. Some infants and children who are born with a valve problem need surgery during childhood.
Often, valve surgery may be combined with other procedures to fully treat your heart disease.
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