Your heart has four valves that help blood flow through your body. When your heart is healthy, your valve flaps open and close properly to keep blood flowing in the right direction. As you get older, you can develop heart valve disease (HVD) and one or more of your valves may stop working as well, which makes it harder for your heart to pump blood through your body.
Although it’s more common in people over 65, HVD can happen at any age. If you don’t do anything about it, heart valve disease can get worse and even lead to death.
There’s no way to prevent heart valve disease, so it’s important to recognize the often subtle symptoms in yourself or a loved one. Don’t mistake them as just a part of getting older. Remember, symptoms are your heart’s way of telling you something is wrong.
Lightheaded, faint, or dizzy feelings
Irregular heartbeat, heart flutter, or chest pains
Shortness of breath after light activity or while lying down
Tiredness, even if they've had plenty of sleep
Edema (swelling of the ankles and feet)
Not feeling like themselves (missing out on daily activities)
Sometimes you can develop heart valve disease and not have symptoms right away. Other diseases and illnesses, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), have similar symptoms.
This is why it's so important to ask your doctor about an echocardiogram. It’s one of the most accurate ways to tell if you or a loved one has heart valve disease.
Don't wait. Talk to your doctor today.
For in-person appointments, our full discussion guide can help you talk about heart valve disease and your symptoms with your doctor.Download our discussion guide
Want to schedule a live doctor appointment from home? Our telehealth guide can help you get started.Download our telehealth guide
There’s no one cause of heart valve disease, but it’s important to know what can put you at risk:
Older age. People 65 and older are at a significantly higher risk
Family history of heart disease or heart valve disease
Chronic kidney disease
Personal history of heart conditions or heart infections
High blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and other heart disease risk factors
Heart conditions since birth (congenital heart disease)
Less common risk factors for heart valve disease are tumors, certain medicines, and radiation. Talk to your doctor and get checked.