Signs and Symptoms
There are many signs and symptoms of Heart Valve Diseases:
- Feeling weak, tired and fatigued
- Rapid weight gain
- Short of breath
- Angina (chest pain)
- Swollen ankles
- Fluttering in the chest
- Abdominal bloating
The risk factors for Heart Valve Diseases are similar to the causes of Heart Valve Disease:
Age: as you grow older the valves in your heart become stiffer and thicker, which can lead to your heart valves becoming diseased.
Infections in the Heart: rheumatic fever, infective endocarditis as well as infections from intravenous drug use.
Congenital heart valves: if you’re born with a valve that has two leaflets instead of three you are more likely to have a valve disease in the future.
Coronary artery disease risk factors: if you also have risk factors for coronary artery disease you are also at an increased risk of heart valve diseases. These risk factors include being overweight or obese, diabetic, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, family history of heart disease and a sedentary lifestyle.
Prevention and Support
Follow the links below to find out more about how you can help prevent and support loved ones who have experienced Heart Valvular Diseases
What you need to know
Women are more prone than men to having a valve disease acquired by rheumatic fever and strep infections, so it is recommended that you seek medical help if displaying signs of infection.
The signs and symptoms of rheumatic fever include: feeling tired, a prolonged sore throat (around 2-6 weeks), joint pain, muscle aches, fever and sometimes a rash on your chest, abdomen, arms and/or legs.
If you wish to become pregnant and have mild-moderate disease in your heart valve/s your doctor can discuss managing your condition with medications which will be safe for you and your baby.
However, if your valve disease is severe, you put your pregnancy at risk and doctors recommend you have your heart valve surgically treated and repaired first.
As mentioned earlier, many women who suffer from heart valve diseases can manage their condition with medications and a healthy lifestyle.
In the future you may need surgical treatment if your valve deteriorates.
It is important to discuss with your doctor and healthcare team what to expect-long term.
If you are diagnosed with a heart valve disease, we recommend speaking with your doctor and treating team to learn more about daily management.
Research suggests that attending a Secondary Prevention Program for managing Heart Diseases can decrease the chance of being admitted to hospital, reduce your complications as well increase survival rates.
One suggestion is cardiac rehabilitation, as these programs will teach you more about your disease, help you recover, empower you to make lifestyle changes to improve heart health as well as reduce your risk of further problems.
Click here to find your nearest cardiac rehabilitation program.
Your doctor may have recommended that you take some new medications if you have heart valve diseases.
This could be an overwhelming time for you, especially as learn all about your new medications as well as any considerations for taking them.
Apart from having a discussion with your doctor and pharmacist, NPS Medicinewise has some great information on medication management, medication disposal as well as risk factors.
They also have some great information about medications for your heart, which can be found here.
It’s not too late to start looking after your heart health.
Here are some great and easy everyday strategies you can do to look after your heart health:
- Don’t smoke, as quitting smoking can reduce your risk by 50% in one year. Quitline would be a great way to start your quitting smoking journey.
- Stay active, 30 minutes per day of exercise, such as walking, can reduce your risk by 30% and delivers many positive health benefits. More information about exercise as well as a sample walking session can be found here.
- Get some sleep, aim for 7-8 hours sleep and aim to try and unplug from your technology (e.g. iPad) one hour before bedtime. The Sleep Health Foundation has many great women’s focused sleep pages for all stages of your life such as your menstrual cycle, pregnancy, new mothers and menopause.
- Eat healthy: ensure you watch portion sizes, eat healthy and nourishing foods such as: high fibre foods (including oats and legumes), two pieces of fruit and seven serves of vegetables, reduced salt, three serves of fish per week, reducing saturated fats (such as chicken with skin on, baked goods, fried foods) whilst choosing more lean proteins such as tofu and trimmed meats. The Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute has created some handy factsheets to help you choose correct portions, supermarket shopping, healthy snacks and eating out.
- Relax: try and take some time out for yourself, keep connected with friends and family, perhaps try activities such as meditation to help manage your stress levels. Beyond Blue has a great page full of practical stress relieving tips, and it could be worth to try some meditations from apps such as Smiling Mind, Headspace and Calm.
If you need Heart Valve surgery, we recommend discussion your treatment options, expectations and recovery with your surgeon and your family.
Most people will notice they are feeling recovered between 4-8 weeks after surgery, a process which will be helped by attending appointments for cardiac rehabilitation.
You may notice a few changes to your body after Heart Valve Surgery. These may include taste in food taste changes, experiencing a metallic taste sensation (both of which tend to dissipate after three months) as well as changes in your medication regime.
This page from St Vincent’s Hospital has useful information on life after Heart Valve surgery.