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Sure Signs Your Heart Valve Is in Trouble

Experts warn if you have these four signs, you could have heart valve disease. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for men and women and oftentimes cardiovascular issues don't show signs, making it more challenging to diagnose or even know there's a health concern. Heart valve disease can fall into this category because sometimes there aren't warning signs, especially in the beginning, but as the disease progresses, there are clear signals that indicate there's a problem and Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with cardiologists who explained what to look for. As always, please consult your physician for medical advice. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What is Heart Valve Disease?

doctor holding heart

Dr Stacey Rosen, cardiologist and SVP of the Katz Institute for Women's Health at Northwell. and co-author of Heart Smarter for Women; Six Weeks to A Healthier Heart.says, "The heart has four valves that separate the chambers of the heart. The valves act like " gates" that keep blood flowing in the right direction through the heart chambers. When the valves open and shut , they cause the " lub-dub" sound that we usually think of as " heart sounds". When one or more of the heart valves doesn't open properly or doesn't close completely flow is disrupted and heart valve disease is present."

Dr. Jeffrey Newman is the Medical Director of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Delray Medical Center part of the Palm Beach Health Network adds, "Heart valves can either be too narrow or not close tight enough. The most common heart valve problem is a calcified and narrow aortic valve."


What Causes it and Who is at Risk?

Senior man suffering heart attack while jogging with wife.

Dr. Rosen explains, "Heart valve disease can be caused by a number of different conditions. Some are present at birth when one or more heart valves are not formed properly and we call this congenital heart valve disease. Other causes include infections that can affect the heart, certain types of heart attacks or heart failure can result in heart valve disease and older individuals are at higher risk for valvular heart disease."


Signs of Heart Valve Disease Can Be Subtle

Doctor points on a human heart model

Dr. Rosen tells us, "It is important to remember that sometimes heart valve disease does not initially cause any significant signs or symptoms or changes that are very mild.  It is very important to report  any concerns or symptoms to your doctor and be sure that your concerns are appropriately and completely evaluated. The initial signs can be very subtle, but early diagnosis is important to prevent more serious outcomes. Some types of valve disease can be monitored, and mild symptoms can be treated with medications. For some, valve disease can be more serious and is best treated with valve replacement."


Heart Murmurs

heart disease

According to Dr. Rosen, "Heart valve disease almost always leads to heart murmurs. These are sounds, usually heard during examination with a stethoscope and is a " wooshing" sound that is caused by blood flowing abnormally in the presence of valves that don't open or don't close normally. Although some types of murmurs are not serious, some types are an important sign of heart valve disease."


Shortness of Breath

Sick woman feeling chest pain and wearing face mask in a lobby at medical clinic.

Dr. Rosen tells us, "Shortness of breath is a common sign of heart valve disease. Sometimes this occurs only with exertion but may progress to occur even at rest. Sometimes the breathlessness makes it difficult to sleep normally at night. Swollen ankles or legs can accompany the breathlessness. Although there are other heart or lung causes for shortness of breath , heart valve disease is an important one to consider."

Dr. Newman says, "Shortness of breath means blood is backing in your heart with activity."


Chest Pain

Young woman suffering from breathing problem near window indoors.

Dr. Rosen says, "Chest pain can be an important sign of heart valve disease, particularly with valve " stenosis" or incomplete opening."

Dr. Newman adds, "Chest pain indicates your heart is working hard to pump blood.


Fainting Spells

Vertigo illness concept. Man hands on his head felling headache dizzy sense of spinning dizziness,a problem with the inner ear, brain, or sensory nerve pathway.

Dr. Rosen states, "Palpitations and lightheadedness can be signs of heart valve disease. This can be related to abnormal heart rhythms that can be seen in patients with heart valve abnormalities and if progressive, can even result in fainting spells."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather