Heart Valve Disease and Early Detection
In Thailand, heart valve disease is a common condition that affects many people as they age. Sometimes the condition may spring from the fact that the heart valves are not working as efficiently as they should.
Sufferers may experience difficulty in breathing or discomfort when doing routine tasks. They may also feel extremely tired from doing simple tasks such as climbing stairs. Without proper understanding of heart valve diseases, sufferers may attribute these experiences to the natural process of ageing. However, it’s important to realize that there could be an underlying heart condition requiring more serious attention.
What Are the Symptoms of Heart Valve Disease?
When a heart is not performing at its optimal state, it may not be able to pump blood — and oxygen — to other parts of the body effectively. Check to see if you experience any of these symptoms1, and discuss with your doctor about the possibility of them being signs of an unhealthy heart :
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Fatigue (low energy)
- Lightheadedness, feeling dizzy, and/or fainting
- Difficulty when exercising
- Swollen ankles and feet
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
Do not take these symptoms lightly as they may reflect a more serious problem that requires medical attention. Seek a doctor’s advice as soon as you experience any of these symptoms.
What Causes Heart Valve Disease?
Congenital defect: Some babies are born with the condition which affects the anatomy and the functions of the heart.
Family history: It is common for heart valve disease to affect families with a history of this condition.
Infection or inflammation: Scar tissue formed in the heart as a result of a previous infection or inflammation can limit the valves’ ability to open and close effectively.
Age: The ageing process may take a toll on our heart valve muscles, making them weak or damaged. This is why heart valve diseases are more common among the elderly.
Heart valve disease is usually diagnosed through a series of comprehensive tests to determine the health of your heart.
When you consult a doctor with complaints of any of the symptoms listed above, one of the first things
he will do is to auscultate your heart with a stethoscope directly on your chest without clothing to check if there is a heart murmur. This is done by placing a stethoscope on your unclothed chest and listening for unusual sounds. Heart murmurs are an early indication of heart valve disease3 . He may examine you further with additional tests such as an echocardiogram to give an accurate diagnosis. Such thorough examinations will allow him to ascertain whether the heart valve is indeed not working properly and why.
A Serious Yet Common Disease
The heart is a complex and critical part of human anatomy. A damaged heart can seriously impair the functions of the human body.
In Thailand, aortic stenosis (or aortic valve stenosis) is considered a serious type of heart valve disease that needs urgent medical attention. If the condition persists without any medical intervention, it may lead to a life-threatening situation.
Those most affected by aortic stenosis are the elderly.4 In such cases, the aortic valve is unable to open and close fully as it should.
It’s best to reach out to your doctor to address the condition immediately and learn about the treatment options available to restore the heart valve to its optimal performance.
Learn more about aortic stenosis, the most common type of heart valve disease affecting the elderly in Thailand.
Mayo Clinic Staff. www.mayoclinic.com http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/aortic-stenosis/basics/symptoms/con-20026329. Accessed August 12, 2016.
Alliance for Aging Research. Aortic Stenosis: Under-Diagnosed and Under-Treated. 2010. https://www.agingresearch.org/newsletters/view/36. Accessed August 12, 2016.
Nishimura RA, Otto CM, Bonow RO et al. 2014 AHA/ACC Guideline for the management of patients with valvular heart disease: Executive summary. Circulation 2014; 10;129:2440–92.
Bouma BJ, van den Brink RBA, van der Meulen JHP et al. To operate or not on elderly patients with aortic stenosis: the decision and its consequences. Heart 1999 Aug; 82: 143–8.
Das P. Exercise testing to stratify risk in aortic stenosis. Eur Heart J 2005;26:1309–13.