Do you ever get the sense that something’s just not right? Maybe it is because you’re getting older? Aging naturally causes a lot of physical changes that you’ll write off as you would the occasional wrinkle or gray hair.
However, some of these are warning signs of serious heart problems like clogged coronary arteries, irregular heartbeat, heart valve damage or even heart failure. These symptoms can easily be missed, because you think it’s just stress, lack of movement or weight gain. Anupama Shivaraju, MD, interventional cardiologist and structural heart program leader at Ascension Resurrection believes these are signs of heart valve disease.
"Heart valve disease, irregular heart rhythms and diseases of the coronary arteries, which provide blood to the heart can be interconnected," Dr.Shivaraju explained."Sometimes fixing one might help another. For example, repairing the mitral valve can significantly reduce the risk of developing persistent atrial fibrillation (AFib), which can cause a fatal stroke."
Dr. Shivaraju shares five warning signs that you should never ignore when it comes to heart valve disease.
Know the symptoms for heart valve disease
If you are you experiencing any of these symptoms, talk to your primary care doctor or cardiologist right away:
- Dizziness or fainting
- Increasing tiredness or fatigue and inability to do things you used to do easily
- Shortness of breath during physical exertion
- Swelling in your legs
- Trouble sleeping due to breathing difficulties (despite using two or three pillows)
These symptoms can occur at any age. Valve problems, especially in the aortic and mitral valve, are not always limited to older patients. Young people with rheumatic heart disease can develop valve disease, and some people have congenital birth defects in their valves, including the mitral valve. Your mitral valve makes sure that blood flows smoothly from your heart’s upper left chamber into your lower left chamber, which then pumps oxygenated blood throughout your body.
If there is a structural problem with this valve or if the valve becomes narrowed and not open properly, over time, these symptoms can become life-threatening.
Talk to a doctor about treatment options
The Ascension Illinois Heart & Vascular Institute has advanced treatment options for structural heart problems, including the minimally invasive MitraClip™ procedure to repair a leaky mitral valve.
This catheter-based procedure allows doctors to repair the leak without opening the chest or temporarily stopping the heart. That’s why the risk to the patient and recovery time are significantly decreased.
The clip does not prolong life, but it does improve the availability to do everyday activities, such as walking farther without experiencing the symptoms that may bring patients in for treatment, and reduces the risk of heart failure hospitalizations. These improvements usually lead to a better quality of life for the patient and the family.
A personalized approach to heart valve care
Dr. Shivaraju and the heart card teams at Ascension Illinois can diagnose structural problems with the heart, including mitral valve disease, with the help of an echocardiogram scan that produces images of the inside of the heart produced by sound waves. After talking with a cardiologist, your care team will create a personalized plan that’s right for you.
For patients who are considered high-risk for open-heart surgery, or for whom surgery is not likely to be effective in fixing the mitral valve problem, Ascension Illinois offers MitraClip™ as a treatment option.
As we continue to expand the comprehensive heart program at Ascension Resurrection, it's really important to have every type of treatment available, including the latest minimally invasive procedures such as transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) and WATCHMAN™ implant for patients with AFib.
Talk to an Ascension Illinois cardiologist about screenings and a heart care plan personalized for you. Schedule an appointment today.
If you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, go directly to the ER or dial 911.