What You Should Know About Heart Valve Disease
North American Precis Syndicate
Recognizing risks and symptoms, and following up with health care providers, are crucial for treating heart valve disease, advises Romeatrius Moss, DNP, RN. (NAPS)
(NAPSI)—Even serious cases of heart valve disease can occur without
symptoms or go unnoticed or be mistaken for other conditions because symptoms
One Man's Story
Al Ridgely figured his increasing shortness of
breath and lagging stamina were symptoms of his emphysema and getting older,
until a fainting episode led doctors to discover he was one of the 2.5
percent of Americans with heart valve disease (HVD).
Feb. 22 is national Heart Valve Awareness Day and the American Heart
Association is working to raise awareness about the symptoms, risks and
treatments for the condition, in which one or more of the heart valves have
been damaged, disrupting blood flow by not opening or closing properly. HVD
becomes more prevalent with age, affecting one in 10 adults age 75 and older.
Ridgely, who is from Traverse City, Michigan,
underwent open-heart surgery to repair both his mitral
and tricuspid valves and encourages others to talk to their health care
providers about any health changes, rather than just assume it is part of
"It never entered my mind that I could have heart disease," said Ridgely, who is now 83. "As I get older, it can be hard
to recognize what's aging and what's something more serious."
Advice From A Health Care
Romeatrius Moss, DNP, RN, an AHA volunteer, said
understanding HVD and making lifestyle changes are crucial for protecting
heart health, especially in African Americans, where the disease is more
"In the black community, we need to understand what our risks are and
follow up with necessary testing," said Dr. Moss, founder, president and
chief executive of Black Nurses Rock, the nation's largest minority nursing
While HVD is relatively common, three out of four Americans reported
knowing little to nothing about the condition, and
six in 10 heart valve patients didn't have or didn't recognize their
symptoms, according to surveys released by the Alliance for Aging Research.
Medical advancements mean HVD can often be successfully treated either
through repair or replacement; however, an estimated 25,000 people die from
the condition each year.
According to the American Heart Association, some people, even those with
serious HVD, may have no symptoms, while others have symptoms that change
very slowly over time or come on quickly. Symptoms can include chest pain or
palpitations, shortness of breath, fatigue, weakness or inability to maintain
regular activity level, light-headedness or loss of consciousness, or swollen
ankles, feet or abdomen.
In addition to age, risk factors for HVD include a history of rheumatic
fever or infective endocarditis, heart attack,
heart failure, arrhythmia, or previous heart valve conditions from birth,
called congenital heart defects.
Those previously diagnosed with a heart murmur, mitral
valve prolapse or other mild form of HVD should
maintain regular checkups with a health care provider and watch for any
changes should the condition worsen over time, Dr. Moss said.
She was diagnosed with a heart murmur as a child, but didn't realize it
could pose significant health risks until a physical for the Air Force
revealed she had mitral valve prolapse.
Thirteen years later, Dr. Moss gets regular checkups with her health care
provider and watches for signs that her condition may be worsening. She also
exercises regularly and watches her diet to minimize her risks.
"Know your body and know how you can protect yourself," Moss said.
"Sometimes, patients have to lead this discussion and as nurses we try to
help our patients advocate for themselves."
For further fact about heart valve disease, including risk factors,
symptoms and treatment, visit www.heart.org/heartvalves.
"Even serious cases of heart valve disease
can occur without symptoms, go unnoticed or be mistaken for other conditions
because symptoms develop slowly—but you can protect yourself. http://bit.ly/2ET4JQp"
On the Net:North American Precis Syndicate, Inc.(NAPSI)