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The most common forms of heart valve disease are aortic stenosis and mitral regurgitation. Aortic valve disease occurs mostly in people over 65. Mitral valve disease can be caused by rheumatic heart disease, and in this case generally occurs in people in their 40s and 50s. It can also be caused by age-related changes, and so occurs in older people as well. Common symptoms to look out for include:
You may find yourself becoming short of breath, particularly when you are active. This is because your heart is not filling and emptying properly, which causes increased pressure in the blood vessels around the lung.
You may feel discomfort, pressure or tightness along the front of your body, between your neck and upper abdomen.
You may find it more difficult to do daily activities you once found easy, like walking to the shops, mowing the lawn, or baking. This can be because you’re not getting the amount of oxygen you once did.
You may find yourself becoming lightheaded or even fainting. This happens when not enough blood flows to the brain.
Sometimes you may find it difficult to do things you once found easier like exercising or walking up stairs. This can be because your heart is having to work harder to do its job.
Early detection is important, and regular check-ups and yearly stethoscope checks can help in early diagnosis of heart valve disease. A stethoscope lets the doctor listen to your heart and check for a heart ‘murmur’ or ‘click-murmur’, which is often the first sign of a heart valve disorder.
Call an ambulance or get someone to take you to the closest hospital emergency department if you notice any of the following physical signs:
If you experience milder symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor. Mild symptoms of heart valve disease can still require treatment.