Understand Valvular Heart Disease
While you go about your business each day, your heart is working hard behind the scenes to keep you alive and active. The heart is an amazing muscle that moves blood to and from the heart and lungs, and throughout your body, with the help of four valves (the tricuspid, pulmonary, mitral, and aortic) that open and close with each beat of your heart, controlling the direction of blood flow.
Unfortunately, even the most impressive structures, such as the heart, can have problems. Valves don’t always work the way they should. If a valve is not formed properly from birth (congenital valve disease) or if it is damaged at some point after birth from age or disease (acquired valve disease), the vital organs, such as the brain and kidneys, may not get the oxygen-rich blood they need to function. Heart valve disease (sometimes called valvular heart disease) can strain the heart, too. The heart has to work harder to compensate for the faulty valve, which can weaken the heart and increase the risk of heart failure (a condition where the heart doesn’t fill up with enough blood or pump enough blood to supply the body with the oxygen and nutrients that it needs) or sudden cardiac arrest (when the heart stops beating). A heart valve problem can also increase the risk of blood clots, which can cause a stroke.