By Vikas Soma, MD, FACC
Premier Heart and Vascular Center, Wesley Chapel

Heart valve disease is a name given to conditions in which one or more of your four heart valves don’t function properly. If your valves do not open or close properly, the blood flow from your heart to the rest of the body is disrupted.

In this article, we’re sharing what causes heart valve disease and all the prevention methods and tips available to you.

Types of Heart Valve Disease

The human heart has four valves:

  • The tricuspid and mitral valves control blood flow from the atria to the ventricles.
  • The pulmonary and aortic valves control blood flow from the ventricles.

Each of these valves can function incorrectly; however, how they stop working properly differs:

  • Valvular stenosis is the narrowing of one of the heart valves. When this happens, the valve cannot open fully, which reduces the amount of blood that passes through it.
  • Valvular prolapse occurs when valve flaps slip out of their place or create a bulge. When this happens, the heart valve is not closing properly, which can cause the blood to leak backward or limit the flow in one direction.
  • Regurgitation is the leaking of blood. When this happens, the valve is not closing properly, which inevitably leads to blood starting to flow backward, causing strain to the heart.

Causes of Heart Valve Disease

The causes of heart valve disease vary significantly and depend mainly on the type. In general, they can either be present from birth or occur later in life.

If the causes are present from birth, it means that you are born with one or more abnormal valves, and this is called congenital heart disease, which we’ll discuss in an upcoming blog.

As for heart valve disease that occurs later in life, there are many causes:

  • Cardiomyopathy
  • A previous case of rheumatic fever
  • An earlier incidence of an endocarditis infection
  • A heart attack that caused damage to the heart muscle
  • Old age

Preventing Heart Valve Disease

Prevention depends largely on what causes the disease; however, physical activity, a healthy diet and an overall healthy lifestyle promote heart health, which, in turn, may protect against heart valve disease.

An overall healthy lifestyle works well not only for this disease but also for other problems: Heart attacks, high blood pressure and other heart-related problems occur much less frequently in individuals who lead a healthier life.

If you’ve had rheumatic fever, a heart attack or an endocarditis infection, it’s vital to visit your doctor, who can counsel you on heart valve disease prevention options.

For more information and treatment options, you can contact the Premier Heart and Vascular Center.