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Frequently asked questions
about heart valve disease (HVD)

About HVD

What is heart valve disease?

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.

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

Does heart valve disease get worse over time?

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.

Is there more than one type of heart valve disease?

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.

What is aortic stenosis?

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.

Symptoms and Risk of HVD

What are the symptoms of heart valve disease?

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

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    Lightheaded, faint, or dizzy feelings

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    Irregular heartbeat, flutter, or chest pains

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    Shortness of breath after light activity or while lying down

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    Tiredness, even if you’ve had plenty of sleep

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    Edema (swelling of the ankles and feet)

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    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.

How do I know if I have heart valve disease?

There are many different tests to check for heart valve disease, but one of the most accurate ways is with an echocardiogram, a painless heart ultrasound. Use our discussion guide or telehealth guide to ask your doctor about symptoms, risk factors, and getting tested.

What can put me at risk of heart valve disease?

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)

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Diagnosis and Treatment of HVD

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

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

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    Use our discussion guide or telehealth guide and make the most of your appointment.

Ask your doctor about an echocardiogram. It’s one of the most accurate ways to see if you have heart valve disease.

What’s an echocardiogram and how is it performed?

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.

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?

Severity:Mild

Every 3 to 5 years

Severity:Moderate

Every 1 to 2 years

Severity:Severe

Every 6 to 12 months*

*Every 1-2 years if you have mitral stenosis

What are treatment options?

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.

How can I help people with heart valve disease?

Helping people with heart valve disease is as easy as reaching out. Talk with your friends and family to raise awareness and help them recognize the symptoms.

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COVID-19 and HVD

What symptoms do COVID-19 and heart valve disease have in common?

COVID-19 and heart valve disease have many similar symptoms, including:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pains
  • Tiredness and fatigue
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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