Recognise heart valve disease symptoms
As we age, our bodies go through many physical changes. You may not be able to climb stairs as easily. Or you may notice discomfort or inability to participate in normal daily activities.
Sometimes changes in your physical health are a result of getting older. But sometimes, these changes may be signs and symptoms of an underlying medical condition, such as heart valve disease—a common condition in which the heart valves do not work the way they should.
Signs of heart valve disease
Heart valve disease can cause the blood flow from your heart to your body to be disrupted. If your body is not getting enough oxygen this can lead to some of these typical symptoms1:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Fatigue (low energy)
- Lightheadedness, feeling dizzy, and/or fainting
- Difficulty when exercising
- Swollen ankles and feet
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
Because these symptoms can be a sign of a serious problem, it is important to talk to your doctor as soon as you experience symptoms, or if your symptoms worsen.
Main causes of heart valve disease
Congenital defect: The disease can be something you are born with, affecting the anatomy of the heart.
Family history: Sometimes heart valve disease is more common in certain families.
Infection or inflammation: This can cause scar tissue to form in the heart and make it difficult for the valves to open and close properly.
Age: Our heart valve muscles can weaken or become damaged as we age, which is why older people are commonly diagnosed.
How is heart valve disease diagnosed?
If you have any of the symptoms listed above or are concerned that you may have heart valve disease, it is important to talk to your doctor as soon as possible.
Upon listening to your heart, your doctor may detect a heart murmur, usually a first sign of heart valve disease.3 If a heart murmur is discovered, your doctor may perform other tests, such as an echocardiogram, to determine what is causing your heart murmur and if you have underlying heart valve disease. These tests are very important as they screen you for different types of heart disease.
The most common type of heart valve disease
One serious type of heart valve disease is called aortic stenosis (or aortic valve stenosis). This is the most common type of heart valve disease in the elderly.4 The condition means your aortic valve cannot fully open and close like it should, and over time, this can become life-threatening. The sooner you talk to your doctor, the sooner you can learn about treatment to get back to a healthier you.
Learn more about aortic stenosis, the most common type of heart valve disease in the elderly.
Mayo Clinic Staff. www.mayoclinic.com http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/aortic-stenosis/basics/symptoms/con-20026329. Accessed August 12, 2016.
Alliance for Aging Research. Aortic Stenosis: Under-Diagnosed and Under-Treated. 2010. https://www.agingresearch.org/newsletters/view/36. Accessed August 12, 2016.
Nishimura RA, Otto CM, Bonow RO et al. 2014 AHA/ACC Guideline for the management of patients with valvular heart disease: Executive summary. Circulation 2014; 10;129:2440–92.
Bouma BJ, van den Brink RBA, van der Meulen JHP et al. To operate or not on elderly patients with aortic stenosis: the decision and its consequences. Heart 1999 Aug; 82: 143–8.
Das P. Exercise testing to stratify risk in aortic stenosis. Eur Heart J 2005;26:1309–13.