The heart is one of those vital organs that none of us can live without. It is important that we take the initiative to promote our heart health in order to keep it functioning at its most optimal level. There are numerous conditions that individuals can suffer from throughout the lifespan that deal specifically with the heart that may compromise our health. Heart valve disease is one of them, and this condition describes an abnormality or dysfunction of any of the heart’s four valves. The four valves in the heart include:
- Mitral and Aortic (on the LEFT side of the heart)
- Tricuspid and Pulmonic (on the RIGHT side of the heart)
This heart disease is either classified as heart valve stenosis, or heart valve insufficiency. Stenosis indicates that the openings of the valves in your heart have become narrowed, which impedes how well the blood is able to flow and keep its cycle going. Insufficiency on the other hand indicates that there is improper closure of the valves that occurs at any location. Therefore, if the valves are unable to close properly some blood may be escaping and flowing backwards, causing regurgitation.
Heart valve disease can either be acquired throughout your lifetime, or be a problem you were born with. If you acquire heart valve disease it will be classified as one of the following types:
· Degenerative Disease – This occurs from damage over time from mechanical stress that is put on the heart muscle, such as from high blood pressure which causes the heart to work harder than it should.
· Rheumatic Disease – This includes gradual fibrotic changes, which include calcification (hardening) of specific areas of the valves. The mitral valve is most commonly affected in this type.
· Infective Endocarditis – With this type, infectious organisms destroy the valve. For example, the strep infection is a common cause of this type of valve disease.
Overall, the heart valves on the left side (mitral and aortic) are affected more commonly due to the higher pressures that are exerted on this side of the heart. As we age, thickening of those specific valves occurs. The aorta becomes increasingly stiffer than in individuals of a younger age, which results in an increased systolic blood pressure (the top number of your blood pressure), and more stress is placed on the mitral valve to work properly.
Risk factors for heart valve disease may include the following:
- High blood pressure
- Rheumatic fever
- Infective endocarditis
- Marfan syndrome (a connective tissue disorder that affects the heart and other areas of the body)
Those who suffer from this condition typically show no signs and symptoms until later on in the progression of the disease. Your healthcare provider will most likely hear a murmur in your heart during your physical examination that will help them to determine which valve is involved. Once signs and symptoms of heart valve disease come to the surface they will differ depending upon which valve has become affected, as follows.
- Left-sided valve damage causes increased pressure in the pulmonary artery and causes the left ventricle of the heart to enlarge, which causes a notable decrease in the overall functioning of the heart. This leads to the following signs and symptoms:
· Trouble breathing when lying flat
· Episodes of severe shortness of breath and coughing at night
· Being extremely tired (fatigue)
- Right-sided valve damage signs and symptoms include:
· Shortness of breath
· Increased pressure on the right atrium
· Noticeable edema in the arms and legs
· Enlarged liver
· Distention of the jugular vein (this vein in your neck will appear abnormally large)
Several diagnostic procedures can aid in confirming diagnosis of which type of heart valve disease you may be suffering from. You should be prepared for many different tests which could be possible, including:
- Chest x-ray
- 12-lead ECG
- Stress testing
- Angiogram testing
Ultimately, Total Home Health has a program that will fit perfectly into your lifestyle if you are suffering from heart valve disease. Our preventive approaches will focus on management of your symptoms with the goal of preventing your condition from worsening. Depending upon which type of heart valve disease you suffer from and to what extent it is posing on your health will determine which treatment is prescribed for you. Treatments may include everything from oral medication to surgical procedures.
The knowledgeable professionals at Total Home Health will assume full responsibility for you and work diligently to carry out your prescribed treatment in the comforts of your own home so that you can focus more on the things that really matter, such as family and friends. Enroll with us today so that you can be on your way to a healthier future!