Your heart has four valves that help blood flow through your body. 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. HVD affects millions of people, with roughly 25,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.
Heart disease, also known as “cardiovascular disease,” is a general term for all heart conditions. Heart valve disease is a specific type that many people aren’t aware of, which is why it’s so important to talk to your doctor if you have symptoms or are over 65.
Yes, heart valve disease is a progressive disease which means it can get worse over time, and even lead to death, if left untreated. For example, if you’re diagnosed with mild aortic stenosis it could become moderate or even severe and require treatment.
This is why it’s so important to have routine echocardiograms and talk with your doctor about treatment options.
There are many types of heart valve disease (HVD), including stenosis, regurgitation (insufficiency), and atresia. All four heart valves (aortic, mitral, tricuspid, and pulmonary) can be affected by HVD.
Aortic stenosis is one of the most common types of heart valve disease and can be deadly if left untreated. In fact, up to 50% of people with severe symptomatic aortic stenosis may die within two years after symptoms begin if left untreated. If you think you might be at risk, or have already been diagnosed, make sure to talk to your doctor right away.
LISTEN to your heart to recognize the subtle symptoms of heart valve disease (HVD):
Lightheaded, faint, or dizzy feelings
Irregular heartbeat, flutter, or chest pains
Shortness of breath after light activity or while lying down
Tiredness, even if you’ve had plenty of sleep
Edema (swelling of the ankles and feet)
Not feeling like yourself (missing out on daily activities)
If you’ve felt any of these symptoms, or have noticed them in a loved one, ask your doctor about an echocardiogram. It’s one of the most accurate ways to see if you have HVD.
There’s no one cause of heart valve disease, but it’s important to know what can put you at risk:
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An echocardiogram is one of the most accurate ways for your doctor to see if you have heart valve disease. An “echo” is a painless test that takes as little as 20 minutes and uses sound waves to take a picture of your heart. After a sonographer finishes your echo, you’ll be able to see your heart patterns on a video screen, and your doctor or cardiologist will walk you through your results.
If you’ve had an echocardiogram before and weren’t diagnosed, ask your doctor if it’s an appropriate time to test again. If you’ve already been diagnosed, it’s still important to get an echocardiogram every so often since heart valve disease gets worse over time. So, how often should diagnosed patients get an echocardiogram?
|Every 3 to 5 years|
|Every 1 to 2 years|
|Every 6 to 12 months*|
*Every 1-2 years if you have mitral stenosis
There’s no way to prevent heart valve disease, but there are treatment options including transcatheter procedures, open heart surgery, and medical management.
Read more about your options and talk with your doctor to see which is right for you.
COVID-19 and heart valve disease have many similar symptoms, including:
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