Increasing respiratory distress under physical stress - many sufferers consider this a normal aging symptom. This symptom may be a warning sign of heart valve disease. This often remains unrecognized for years until finally irreversible damage to the heart muscle is present.
Worth knowing about the heart
The heart is about as big as our fist and weighs about 300 grams in the adult. It is a hollow organ - that is, a cavity surrounded by muscles and other tissue.
The heart consists of two heart chambers (ventricles) and atria. The two chambers of the heart are each filled with blood via one inlet valve and emptied via one outlet valve - the four heart valves. These are distinguished depending on the form in sail and pocket flaps. The flaps are located between the atria and the heart chambers, the pocket flaps at the exit of the two chambers.
Tasks of the heart valves:
- Prevent the flow of blood back into the chamber and the forecourt
- Determine the flow direction of the blood and ensure a uniform blood flow
Valvular heart disease
With increasing age, more and more people suffer from a disorder of the heart valve function: Narrowing, calcifications or leaks obstruct the bloodstream. In leaky valves, the blood flows back through the heart valve after each heartbeat, with narrowed valves it jams in front of the valve and the heart has to pump more.
This additional load tries to cope with the heart first by means of compensatory measures, for example through increased muscle building. In the long term, however, it comes to heart failure (heart failure) up to heart failure.
Forms of valvular heart disease:
- Valve narrowing (stenosis)
- Valve leaks (insufficiency)
- Combined valve failure (leakage and narrowing)
Heart valve defects are predominantly acquired during the course of life. In today's high life expectancy flaps errors in the foreground, which are due to "wear". The flaps wear off in the course of a long life. As a result, they can narrow down or become incapacitated.
Other heart valve defects arise as a result of inflammation of the heart valves by acute, rheumatic fever, by a bacterial heart valve inflammation or as a result of heart disease, for example, a heart attack. They can also occur in middle and young age. Congenital heart valve defects are very rare and occur only in about 3 percent of all people.
Symptoms and complaints
The earlier the heart valve disease is detected, the more effective therapy methods can be used. It is therefore desirable that those affected recognize the warning signals as such and not dismiss them as banal.
Of course, many sufferers sooner or later notice that they are less resilient than before. Since the disease usually only slowly worsens, it does not lead to a sudden performance kink, but the symptoms gradually increase. And this is often mistakenly understood as a normal process of getting older. Defective valves can lead to a reduced pumping capacity of the heart - especially under load.
Therefore, one should be alert if already during walking or other light loads increased breathing or even shortage of air occurs. However, you should not only be vigilant when it comes to performance restrictions. Depending on the type of heart valve defect, it may also come to short fainting spells, chest pain, water retention in the legs or too strong pulse increase under even less stress.
Diagnosis of heart valve disease
Whether a valve disease is actually responsible for existing symptoms, you should definitely clarify with a short visit to the doctor who listens to the chest with a stethoscope for conspicuous noises of the heart valves.
For an exact diagnosis provides an ultrasound examination (echocardiography), which allows accurate insight into the heart and manages without X-rays.
Therapy of heart valve defects
Depending on the type and severity of the valve defect, various treatment options are available. For low-grade disorders, initially only the symptoms are treated with medication.
If this is not possible, it is usually an operation - if possible before the heart muscle has changed irrevocably. It is possible to use the cardiac catheterization (in case of narrowing), a valve repair to repair the valve, or a valve replacement where the defective valve is replaced by a new one (plastic, metal, graphite, or human or animal tissue), The last two procedures are performed under general anesthesia, as the thorax has to be opened.
The doctor will assess when such an intervention will be necessary to increase performance and gain lifetime. Although there are risks, these are usually justified by the prospects of success: The quality of life improves significantly, even an existing heart failure is often reduced.