Heart Valve Disease Impedes Normal Blood Flow

By: Jody Smith

If you have heart valve disease, you have one or more valves that are not functioning effectively. It might be your tricuspid valve, your pulmonary valve, your mitral valve or your aortic valve, or any combination of the above.

A valve has a flap of tissue that opens and shuts every time your heart beats. Your flaps keep blood moving in the right direction as it flows through the chambers of your heart, and then throughout your body.

A malfunctioning heart valve can regurgitate, which means the blood can flow backwards into the chamber, if the valve isn't fully closing.

If a valve's flap gets thick or stiff, or fuses, stenosis keeps the valve from opening properly. An inadequate amount of blood will be moving through the valve.

If a valve doesn't have an opening big enough for blood to pass through properly, this is atresia.

Heart valve disease often does not appear until at least middle-age or beyond. Women who are more than 75 years old, and men 65 and older, may develop deposits such as calcium in heart valves. This can cause stenosis, limiting blood flow through the chambers.

According to the American College of Cardiology, approximately 1 in 8 people who are 75 years of age or older, may have some degree of heart valve disease. Risk factors for heart disease in seniors include diabetes, high blood pressure, low HDL cholesterol, high LDL cholesterol and insulin resistance.

If you smoke, are sedentary or overweight, you have a higher risk for heart valve disease. A family history that includes early heart disease is also a risk factor.

If you have heart valve disease, you may have a heart murmur which is an abnormal sound from the heart. Your doctor can identify this by listening to your heart through a stethoscope.

This is the primary indicator of heart valve disease. You might also be short of breath and feel unusually tired. Your feet, ankles and abdomen might be prone to swelling.

After times of exertion, you may feel some chest pain. Your heartbeat may be irregular. You may become light-headed, dizzy, or possibly faint.

Your heart is having to work harder, and it's not as proficient at pumping your blood as it used to be. And it is true that untreated heart valve disease can be dangerous, with an advanced untreated case potentially leading to blood clots, heart failure, stroke and even sudden death from sudden cardiac arrest.

But symptoms can often be treated. It may be possible to prevent further deterioration of your heart valve and in some cases, valves may be replaced.

If you have heart valve disease, it's not going to go away. You'll need to visit your doctor on a regular basis for treatment. Let you doctor know of any changes in symptoms.

Sources:

Valve Disease

http://www.cardiosmart.org/HeartDisease/CTT.aspx?id=112

Inflammation behind heart valve disease

http://press-news.org/27713-inflammation-behind-heart-valve-disease.html

Heart valve disease

http://www.bhf.org.uk/heart-health/conditions/heart-valve-disease.asp

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