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Frequently asked questions

What is heart valve disease?

Your heart has four valves that help blood flow through your body. As you get older, one or more of your valves can stop working as well and have trouble pumping blood through your body. This condition is called heart valve disease and affects millions of people, with roughly 25,000 deaths in the US each year.

What are the symptoms?

LISTEN to your heart to recognize the subtle symptoms of heart valve disease:

  1. Letter L

    Lightheaded, faint, or dizzy feelings

  2. Letter I

    Irregular heartbeat, flutter, or chest pains

  3. Letter S

    Shortness of breath after light activity or while lying down

  4. Letter T

    Tiredness, even if you’ve had plenty of sleep

  5. Letter E

    Edema (swelling of the ankles and feet)

  6. Letter N

    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 for an echocardiogram. It’s the only sure way to see if you have heart valve disease.

Am I at risk?

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 causes of heart valve disease are tumors, certain medicines, and radiation. As many as 1 in 2 people over 65 don't know they have heart valve disease. If you’re over 65, ask your doctor for an echocardiogram.

How do I know if I have heart valve disease?

There are many different tests to check for heart valve disease, but the only sure way to know is to ask your doctor for an echocardiogram, a painless heart ultrasound.

How is heart valve disease different from heart disease?

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 are not aware of, which is why it’s so important to talk to your doctor if you have symptoms or are over 65.

How do I talk to my doctor about heart valve disease?

  1. Yellow speech bubble icon on a blue background.

    Share all of your symptoms, even if you mentioned them to your doctor before.

  2. Yellow exclamation mark on a blue background.

    Use our discussion guide to help track your symptoms and make the most of your appointment.

Ask your doctor for an echocardiogram. It’s the only sure way to see if you have heart valve disease.

What’s an echocardiogram and how is it performed?

An echocardiogram is the only sure way 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.

How often should I get an echocardiogram?

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

Senior man using tablet device to read heart valve disease guides.

Heart valve disease symptoms?

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Discussion Guide

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

Telehealth Guide

Want to schedule a live doctor appointment from home? Our telehealth guide can help you get started.

Download our telehealth guide

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