Is your heart at risk?

To the Editor:

Most Americans don’t realize the same conditions that would make a COVID-19 diagnosis even more serious — diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart failure — also make someone more likely to develop heart valve disease (HVD).

Three in four people know little to nothing about HVD, including who is at risk, yet, more than 11 million Americans have the disease. Almost 25,000 people die from it each year, but most HVD-related deaths are preventable. That’s why it’s critical to be aware of your risk factors and symptoms.

People 75 years and older are at greater risk of developing HVD. Black men and women may also be at an increased risk because they have a higher risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes — all of which can lead to HVD.

HVD symptoms aren’t always apparent. They can include shortness of breath, dizziness, and general fatigue — all symptoms are often mistaken as “normal” signs of aging.

A simple check-up with your doctor, who can listen to your heart, can usually identify a murmur — a telling sign of HVD. Fortunately, treatments exist that help many with the disease return to a normal life.

Heart Valve Disease Awareness Day is Feb. 22. Use this opportunity to make sure you and your loved ones know their risk factors and get their hearts checked. Visit www.valvediseaseday.org for more.

— Lindsay Clarke, JD, vice president

Health Education and Advocacy at the Alliance for Aging Research