Heart Valve Disease: Know the Signs

Heart surgery monitoring

Most people know the symptoms of a heart attack, but what about heart valve disease? We asked Renown Health heart doctor Jake Ichino, M.D., to explain more.

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You may know the signs and symptoms of heart attack, but what about detecting problems with your heart valves? We asked Jake Ichino, M.D., cardiologist with Renown Institute for Heart and Vascular Health, about some common heart valve issues and how we can treat them.

What is heart valve disease?

Heart valve disease happens when one or more of the heart’s valves doesn’t open and close correctly, which affects the flow of blood through the body. If left unmanaged, heart valve disease can lead to other complications such as stroke, blood clots or heart failure.

There are a few types of heart valve disease, including:

  • Valvular stenosis, where the valve opening is narrowed by the valve flaps becoming thick or stiff.
  • Valvular insufficiency or regurgitation, where the valve flaps don’t close correctly, which can cause blood to leak and go the wrong direction back into your heart.

What are some of the signs and symptoms that someone may have issues with their heart valves?

Some people with heart valve disease might not feel any different or experience symptoms for quite some time, but if you notice any of the following symptoms, you should call your care provider:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath, especially when you’ve been active or when you lie down
  • Swelling of the ankles or feet
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Irregular heartbeat

If your care provider listens to your heart and notices an abnormal sound or heart murmur, he or she may recommend a visit to a cardiologist who can further test for heart valve disease.

Are heart valve issues preventable?

There are several risk factors that can increase the chance of heart valve disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, which can all be prevented by living a healthy lifestyle through a heart-healthy diet, getting regular physical activity and avoiding tobacco use.

A history of certain infections or a history of certain forms of heart disease or heart attack are also considered risk factors, as well as things out of our control, such as age and heart conditions present at birth.

So if you or a loved one is diagnosed with heart valve problems, what sort of treatment options are available?

The Heart Valve Program at Renown Institute for Heart and Vascular Health has many treatment options our heart care team can recommend. We offer medication plans, valve repair, valve replacement, and transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR, which replaces the valve by using a catheter going through an incision in the leg and does not require open-heart surgery.