Heart Valve Awareness: Seek Clarity About Your Risks
Choosing the best treatment option for you based on your individual values, preferences and life planning is very important. That’s why it’s essential that you’re involved in the decision-making process along with your health care team.
What if I'm told I don’t need treatment now but I may need it later?
Anyone with a congenital heart defect such as a bicuspid valve, a prolapsed or leaky valve, mitral valve prolapse, a stiffened valve, a previous heart valve surgery, and some people with heart murmurs should faithfully schedule and attend all follow-up appointments so the condition can be monitored.
When a valve has problems, a health care professional will need to carefully track the outflow of blood, possible damage to the other heart chambers and blood vessels, any symptoms you may notice and the pressure around the valve.
Clarify Your Potential for Risks
If you have a potential heart valve problem or a repaired or replaced heart valve, be sure you communicate with your medical professional to get answers to the following questions:
- Do I have any restrictions regarding exercise and how long should I keep my heart rate elevated?
- Should I pay careful attention to how high my heart rate climbs during exercise?
- What symptoms should I be sure to document if I notice them?
- Are there any types of medical emergencies for which I am at higher risk because of my valve problem?
- How important is regular follow-up care for this condition?
- How often should I be rechecked?
- Do I need to keep track of my own scheduling or does your office help me remember when I am due for my next appointment?
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If your valve problems remain manageable without noticeable symptoms or causing damage to your heart, your medical professional may feel it’s working “well enough”. They may advise there is little cause for concern and to focus on healthy lifestyle choices. You and your health care professional may decide that your best option is to keep your valve and continue to monitor your condition.
However, if you begin noticing symptoms such as chest pain or discomfort, lightheadedness, feeling faint, or noticing that you're short of breath, your heart valve function may be getting worse. If your heart is having to work harder than it should, it may be time to consider your replacement and repair options.
Your medical professional will help you determine the best option for you.