Date: December 13th, 2016
Heart valve disease (HVD) is a condition that involves damage to one or more of the heart’s valves; it affects an estimated five million Americans. While some types are not serious, others can lead to major complications, including about 22,000 deaths per year. Valve disease can be present at birth or develop from damage later in life from calcification, other cardiovascular diseases and conditions, or infection.
Fortunately, valve disease can usually be successfully treated with medications to ease symptoms and reduce the risk of further valve damage. The best treatment option for you depends on several factors, including the type of valve disease you have, how severe it is, your age, and medical history.
Although HVD affects millions, awareness of the disease is low. Results from an online survey of more than 400 individuals diagnosed with heart valve disease, conducted by the Alliance for Aging Research and Belden Russonello Strategists, showed that two-thirds of the survey respondents knew a limited amount or nothing about HVD prior to their diagnosis. Sixty percent of the survey respondents were diagnosed with HVD only after a routine check-up or visit for something else.
Additionally, a national omnibus survey of 2,018 adults revealed that while over half of respondents said they have heard of heart valve disease, less than one in four knew somewhat or a great deal about HVD. Although awareness increases with age, 30 percent of those over age 65 say that they know nothing about HVD.
Individuals who have a history of heart attack, heart failure, infective endocarditis (IE), rheumatic fever, or previous HVD are at higher risk for developing heart valve disease. Other risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, insulin resistance, obesity, and lack of physical activity.
The potential seriousness of the condition and the current lack of awareness are the reasons why the Alliance partnered with 29 national organizations to call on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to include National Heart Valve Disease Awareness Day on its National Health Observances Calendar. As of 2017, National Heart Valve Disease Awareness Day will be officially observed on February 22 each year.
“The goal of an annual National Heart Valve Disease Awareness Day on February 22 is to increase recognition of the specific risks and symptoms of heart valve disease to improve detection and treatment—and ultimately save lives,” says Sue Peschin, MHS, president and CEO of the Alliance. "With education and advocacy, we can reduce the number of people who lose their independence and their ability to fully participate in their lives; experience heart attacks, arrhythmias, congestive heart failure, and other heart disease; suffer from strokes; and even die from the disease."
Additional information and resources for heart valve disease can be found on the Living with Valve Disease site. Visit the website to learn more about patient stories, local support communities and organizations, financial assistance, medical care locations, and current HVD news and updates. You can also learn more about the awareness day campaign on the official Valve Disease Day site.