As we age, our bodies go through many physical changes. You may not be able to climb stairs as easily. Or you may notice discomfort or inability to participate in normal daily activities.
Sometimes changes in your physical health are a result of getting older. But sometimes, these changes may be signs and symptoms of an underlying medical condition, such as heart valve disease—a common condition in which the heart valves do not work the way they should.
Signs of heart valve disease
Heart valve disease can cause the blood flow from your heart to your body to be disrupted. If your body is not getting enough oxygen this can lead to some of these typical symptoms1:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Fatigue (low energy)
- Lightheadedness, feeling dizzy, and/or fainting
- Difficulty when exercising
- Swollen ankles and feet
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
Because these symptoms can be a sign of a serious problem, it is important to talk to your doctor as soon as you experience symptoms, or if your symptoms worsen.
Congenital defect: The disease can be something you are born with, affecting the anatomy of the heart.
Family history: Sometimes heart valve disease is more common in certain families.
Infection or inflammation: This can cause scar tissue to form in the heart and make it difficult for the valves to open and close properly.
Age: Our heart valve muscles can weaken or become damaged as we age, which is why older people are commonly diagnosed.
Mayo Clinic Staff. www.mayoclinic.com http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/aortic-stenosis/basics/symptoms/con-20026329. Accessed August 12, 2016.
Alliance for Aging Research. Aortic Stenosis: Under-Diagnosed and Under-Treated. 2010. https://www.agingresearch.org/newsletters/view/36. Accessed August 12, 2016.
Nishimura RA, Otto CM, Bonow RO et al. 2014 AHA/ACC Guideline for the management of patients with valvular heart disease: Executive summary. Circulation 2014; 10;129:2440–92.
Bouma BJ, van den Brink RBA, van der Meulen JHP et al. To operate or not on elderly patients with aortic stenosis: the decision and its consequences. Heart 1999 Aug; 82: 143–8.
Das P. Exercise testing to stratify risk in aortic stenosis. Eur Heart J 2005;26:1309–13.