Heart Valve Disease: A Closer Look

The heart, a powerful and intricate organ, relies on its four valves to ensure that blood flows in the right direction at the proper rate. However, when these valves don’t function as they should, heart valve disease ensues, posing significant risks to our overall health.


Heart Valve Disease pertains to a range of disorders affecting one or more of the heart’s four valves (mitral, aortic, tricuspid, and pulmonary). When afflicted, these valves might not open or close properly, disrupting the heart’s blood flow.


Symptoms of heart valve disease can vary based on the affected valve and the disease’s severity:

  1. Shortness of Breath: Especially during exertion or when lying down.
  2. Fatigue: Feeling easily tired during regular activities.
  3. Chest Pain: Discomfort or tightness, particularly during increased activity or when lying down.
  4. Heart Palpitations: Sensations of a rapid, fluttering, or pounding heart.
  5. Swollen Ankles or Feet: Fluid retention can cause these swellings.
  6. Dizziness or Fainting: Due to the heart’s inability to supply the brain with enough oxygen-rich blood.


The causes of heart valve disease can be many, encompassing:

  1. Age-Related Changes: As one age, the heart valves may become thicker or stiffer.
  2. Infections: Such as infective endocarditis, which affects the heart’s inner lining.
  3. Rheumatic Fever: This complication from untreated strep throat can damage heart valves.
  4. Congenital Heart Defect: Some people are born with abnormalities in their heart valves.
  5. Other Conditions: Such as coronary artery disease, heart attack, or cardiomyopathy.

Risk Factors

Certain factors can increase the susceptibility to valve disease:

  1. Age: Older individuals have a higher risk due to wear and tear on the heart.
  2. History of Certain Infections: A history of infections that can damage the heart valves.
  3. Heart Disease: Having any form of heart disease can elevate the risk.
  4. High Blood Pressure: Chronic hypertension can exert extra strain on the heart.
  5. Smoking: Tobacco use can increase the risk of heart diseases, including valve disorders.

How to Avoid Heart Valve Disease

While not all forms of heart valve disease can be avoided, certain measures can reduce risk:

  1. Proper Dental Hygiene: Regular dental check-ups and good oral health can prevent infections that could reach the heart.
  2. Avoiding Smoking: Not using tobacco can reduce the risk of heart-related diseases.
  3. Regular Checkups: Monitoring and managing health conditions that might lead to or exacerbate heart problems.
  4. Healthy Diet and Lifestyle: Maintaining a balanced diet, healthy weight, and regular exercise can bolster heart health.
  5. Prompt Treatment of Infections: Addressing conditions like strep throat can prevent complications like rheumatic fever.

When to See a Doctor

Seeking timely medical attention is crucial. It’s essential to see a doctor if:

  1. Any of the symptoms mentioned earlier are noticed.
  2. There’s a heart murmur or irregular heartbeat.
  3. There’s a family history of heart valve disease or many risk factors.

Diagnostic and Treatment Procedures

Upon visiting a healthcare provider, they may recommend:

  1. Echocardiogram: Utilizes sound waves to generate detailed images of the heart’s size, structure, and motion.
  2. Electrocardiogram (ECG): Monitors the heart’s electrical activity.
  3. Cardiac MRI: Provides detailed images of the heart and its valves.

Treatments can range from medications, minimally invasive procedures to open-heart surgery, depending on the disease’s severity and cause.

Living with Heart Valve Disease

For those diagnosed with valve disease:

  1. Regular Monitoring: Periodic check-ups to observe the disease’s progression are essential.
  2. Medications: Adhering to prescribed medications to manage symptoms and prevent complications.
  3. Physical Activity: Engage in doctor-recommended exercises to maintain cardiovascular health.
  4. Join Support Groups: Sharing experiences and coping strategies can be therapeutic.


Additional Information


Types of Heart Valve Disease

  1. Stenosis: When a valve doesn’t fully open, restricting blood flow. This causes the heart muscle to work harder and can lead to heart failure.
  2. Regurgitation (or insufficiency or incompetence): When a valve doesn’t close properly, causing blood to leak backward instead of moving forward. Over time, this can cause the heart to enlarge and can lead to heart failure.
  3. Atresia: Present at birth, it’s when a valve lacks an opening for blood to pass through.
  4. Prolapse: The flaps of the valve bulge or prolapse backward into the atrium during the heart’s contraction. This can lead to regurgitation.

Factors That Can Damage Valves

  1. Heart Attack: It can damage the muscles controlling the heart valve or the valve itself.
  2. Medications: Some drugs, especially certain ones used for treating Parkinson’s disease, migraine, or even some weight loss drugs, have been linked to valve disease.
  3. Radiation: Radiation therapy targeted at the chest can increase the risk of heart valve disease.

Complications of Heart Valve Disease

  • Heart Failure: Over time, the heart’s inefficient pumping can lead to heart failure.
  • Stroke: Blood clots formed in the heart due to turbulent flow can travel to the brain.
  • Heart Rhythm Abnormalities: Improper blood flow can disrupt the heart’s rhythm, leading to arrhythmias.
  • Death: In severe cases and without timely intervention, heart valve disease can be fatal.

Tests to Confirm Diagnosis

  • Chest X-ray: Helps view the heart’s shape, size, and position.
  • Cardiac Catheterization: Offers images and can measure pressures in the heart chambers.
  • Exercise or Stress Tests: Monitors the heart’s performance under stress.

Preventive Measures

  • Regular Screening: Especially if you have a family history or congenital heart defects.
  • Promptly Treat Streptococcal Infections: Early treatment can prevent rheumatic fever, which can cause heart valve disease.
  • Protect Your Heart if You Have Existing Valve Disease: Prophylactic antibiotics may be recommended for some patients before certain procedures.

Emerging Treatments

Research is always underway to improve treatments. Techniques such as transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) offer minimally invasive ways to replace the aortic valve, reducing recovery time and risks associated with open-heart surgeries.

Heart valve disease, a condition with profound implications, requires understanding and proactive management. Awareness of its nature, symptoms, causes, and prevention can empower individuals to lead healthier lives. Regular check-ups and a heart-healthy lifestyle remain at the forefront of disease prevention. When in doubt, always seek expert medical advice to ensure optimal heart health.




American Falls


Idaho Falls


Make an Appointment

Contact Information

(208) 233-2273

(208) 233-2490




American Falls


Idaho Falls


Contact Information

(208) 233-2273

(208) 233-2490



1515 E Clark St
Pocatello, ID 83201


220 Bannock St
Malad, ID 83252


502 Tyhee Ave
American Falls, ID 83211


1492 Parkway Dr.
Blackfoot, ID 83221


2270 Teton Plaza
Idaho Falls, ID 83404


32 S 150 E
Burley, ID 83318