How do you take care of your heart after 40?
As you find yourself hitting 40, you may start thinking about health issues you previously didn’t concern yourself with. Should heart health be one of them?
Mitral valve stenosis is a condition in which the opening to the mitral valve of the heart is narrowed, preventing the valve from opening normally and restricting blood flow into the pumping chamber of the heart. This makes the heart work harder to move blood through the narrowed valve into the left ventricle, which is the chamber that pumps blood to the body. Mitral valve stenosis has become less common in the United States today because the condition’s primary cause, rheumatic fever, has decreased in frequency.
Mitral valve disease can be caused by rheumatic fever, a complication of strep throat or a congenital heart defect.
Mitral valve stenosis can weaken the heart, leading to heart failure, atrial fibrillation, enlargement of the heart, lung congestion and blood clot.
Mild cases of heart valve disease may not cause symptoms. The most common symptoms include:
Symptoms may worsen with exertion or stress.
Mitral valve stenosis may be suspected if a physician detects abnormal heart sounds through a stethoscope. To further define the nature and extent of the valve disease, physicians may use tests including:
Drugs prescribed to treat mitral valve stenosis include diuretics (or water pills), anticoagulants (or blood thinners), beta-blockers, and calcium channel blockers.
When an intervention is necessary to “fix” mitral stenosis, it can be done either surgically or using a catheter approach (similar to a cardiac catheterization). The surgical options include mitral valve replacement or mitral valve repair (sometimes called a valvuloplasty), where the surgeon opens up the restricted valve leaflets to decrease the degree of stenosis and improve the blood flow. This valvuloplasty procedure can sometimes be done in the cath lab, using a balloon to spread the valve leaflets and open the valve. This latter approach does not require open heart surgery.