Unlike coronary disease, valve disease is not something you can change with diet or lifestyle changes alone. They key to avoiding the damaging effects of valve disease lies in EARLY DIAGNOSIS and TREATMENT. Over time, heart valve disease results in cardiac muscle failure, pulmonary hypertension and lung damage, disturbances in heart rhythm function and even sudden death.
In the early stages of heart valve disease, you may be completely asymptomatic. Later on in the disease process, you will start to become breathless, develop chest pain or suffer palpitations. These symptoms are very important, and if they persist, you should see your doctor.
Most doctors can detect heart valve abnormalities by listening to the heart with a stethoscope. If a murmur is heard, you should be referred immediately or a transthoracic echocardiogram. This is a painless test where an expert places a probe on your chest to “look” at the heart with ultrasound, and is a very reliable method detecting the cause of the murmur and whether further treatment is required.
The simple answer to this is NO. The echocardiogram allows the doctor to decide whether to monitor the problem, or if surgery is required. The importance of early detection cannot be under estimated, however, as it allows your cardiologist or surgeon to time your treatment before serious secondary problems develop.
REMEMBER: the treatment of heart valve disease is associated with excellent outcomes, and most problems can be treated with keyhole therapies. The real concern with heart valve disease is late diagnosis as the sequelae of chronic heart valve disease are often irreversible!