Untreated heart valve disease can lead to more major issues that can be fatal. If you have a family history of valvular heart disease or possibly related symptoms, it’s best to check regularly with your heart doctor or NYC cardiologist to make sure that your heart valves are functioning properly.
Heart Valve Disease
The heart has four valves that work to ensure that blood flows in the right direction at the right time. When the heart valves aren’t able to do this properly, heart valve disease develops. In many cases, symptoms are minimal, but heart valve disease can slowly degrade your quality of life.
What Heart Valves Do
Imagine your heart, very simply, as a square divided into four smaller squares. The top two chambers are called “atria.” They receive blood from the rest of the body. The bottom two chambers are called “ventricles.” They pump blood from the heart to the body. The valves control the level of pressure, the amount of blood and the direction the blood flows.
There are valves between the atria and ventricles, and valves between the ventricles and the outflowing arteries. When the atria receive blood from the rest of the body, they fill up to a certain pressure. At this point, healthy heart valves open so that blood can flow into the ventricles.
The valves need to open and then shut tightly in sync with the contractions of the heart. The other two heart valves do essentially the same job, but they open so that the ventricles can contract and send blood to the lungs for oxygen, and then on to the rest of the body.
If your heart is healthy, it makes the signature “bu-bump” sound. This is actually due to the two sets of valves shutting tightly. A heart murmur is any additional sound produced by your heart. Though in many cases a heart murmur ends up being benign, per cardiovascular doctors in NYC it can be an indication of valvular disease.
In cases of aortic stenosis, the aortic heart valve (which allows the flow of oxygenated blood from the heart to the rest of the body) becomes tight or hardened. The valve’s ability to open is restricted, meaning that not as much blood gets out, and much higher pressure is required to open it. As a result, the heart has to pump harder to do its job, and the body doesn’t get as much blood.
The severity of aortic stenosis ranges from mild to severe. In very severe cases, risk of heart failure and sudden death is high. In most untreated cases, patients eventually develop chest pain, shortness of breath and even loss of consciousness from physical activity.
The most effective interventions are surgical or transcutaneous valve replacement.
Aortic stenosis is not difficult to detect. However, since it progresses in an unpredictable manner, you should see a cardiovascular doctor or NYC cardiologist frequently, even if you have a very mild stenosis. NYC Cardiology treats many cases of aortic stenosis without surgery.
Mitral regurgitation occurs when the valve between the top and bottom chambers don’t close tightly enough. So when the ventricle contracts to pump blood to the rest of the body, some of it leaks back into the atrium. As with stenosis, this means that the heart can’t create enough pressure and pump blood hard enough, and it has to overexert to do its job. The backflow can also cause the atrium to enlarge, which can increase blood pressure in the veins bringing blood to the heart.
Mitral regurgitation can progress slowly. In many cases, as noted by NYC cardiovascular doctor M. Ghalchi it’s present for years without any symptoms. When symptoms do appear, they include shortness of breath, fatigue, and arrhythmia. Even if you have a mild case that doesn’t require treatment yet, the first thing to do is to undergo regular observation by a cardiac doctor.
Mitral regurgitation can lead to deadly complications, but if it’s caught early, tracked, and treated by a heart doctor or cardiologist, you can avoid them. Repair and replacement surgery, if it becomes necessary, is highly successful.
Testing and Prevention
Issues with heart valves are often first detected by hearing a heart murmur. This is one of the things your cardiologist checks for whenever he uses a stethoscope, so regular heart doctor visits and cardiovascular doctor evaluations are a good first line of defense.
Seeing a cardiologist in NYC such as Dr. Ghalchi can give you a leg up, since he uses special techniques to examine your heart, such as:
- Echocardiograms give an ultrasound image of heart function. Sound waves produce a live picture of your heart’s function, so that blockages, regurgitations and their results can all be seen.
- EKGs (or electrocardiograms) use electrodes to monitor your heart’s electrical activity. Certain electrical patterns may be a sign of valve damage, and EKGs can also give an idea of whether different heart chambers are enlarged, which can also result from valvular heart disease.
- Stress tests can help track how your heart function responds when you are exerting yourself physically.
The cardiologists and heart doctors at Manhattan Cardiovascular Associates under management of NYC’s best rated cardiologist Dr. Michael Ghalchi, have all the clinical tests, tools and knowledge to diagnose and treat heart valve disease and valvular heart problems. Contact leading cardiovascular doctors in New York to make an appointment.
Dr. Michael Ghalchi, Cardiologist (Cardiologist NYC, Midtown)
New York, NY10010
(Between Madison Ave & Park Ave)
☎ (212) 686-0066