An estimated 11 million Americans in the U.S. have heart valve disease (HVD). Valve disease involves damage to one or more of the heart’s valves, and while some types are not serious, others can lead to major complications—including death.
Most valve diseases involve a damaged valve that disrupts blood flow by not opening or closing properly. Valve defects can be there at birth or develop from damage later in life. When valve damage reduces blood flow, the heart has to work harder and the body gets less oxygen—leading to a number of symptoms. Symptoms can include fatigue; lightheadedness; shortness of breath; weakness or dizziness; pain, tightness, or discomfort in the chest; fainting or feeling faint; rapid or irregular heartbeat; decrease in exercise capacity; and swollen abdomen or ankles and feet. Not all people with valve disease have symptoms, even if their disease is severe. Too often, symptoms are dismissed as just a “normal” sign of aging.
Fortunately, valve disease can usually be successfully treated with valve repair or replacement in patients of all ages. If you have been diagnosed with valve disease, have a heart murmur, or think you may be experiencing symptoms, be sure to talk with your healthcare provider.
Aortic stenosis is the stiffening of the aortic valve and is one of the most common types of valve disease, affecting 1 in 10 people over the age of 75.
Heart Valve Disease Awareness Day
The goal of the annual awareness day on February 22 is to increase recognition of the specific risks and symptoms of heart valve disease, improve detection and treatment, and ultimately save lives. On this day and throughout the year, the campaign partners—100+ nonprofits, advocacy organizations, professional societies, foundations, and hospitals and heart centers—are helping to spread the word about valve disease.