The Howard Gilman Institute for Valvular Heart Disease
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About Valvular Heart Disease


1. Overview

2. How Valves Work

3. Valve Diseases

4. Causes & Who's at Risk

5. Atrial Fibrillation



Valves are the doors to a healthy heart.

Heart valve abnormalities are quite common and most often not severe.

However, left undiagnosed and untreated, some can cause progressive deterioration in heart function, which can result in heart failure and premature death.

  • It is estimated that more than 15 million Americans have some type of heart valve abnormality.
  • In approximately five million, disease is moderate to severe.
  • Three to four million will require surgery at some time in the lives.

Heart valve diseases develop and progress with aging, so these number will increase as the Baby Boom generation ages.

Valve Disease & Heart Failure

Heart failure is the second most common cause of cardiac death. Valve diseases are among its most important causes. Heart failure occurs when the heart fails to pump sufficient blood to enable the body to carry out its normal functions.

Detecting Heart Valve Disease

It is important to detect even mild heart valve disease, because it can progress and become severe. It also can cause susceptibility to heart valve infection and, less frequently, stroke. A diagnosis of valve disease can help prevent these problems.

When valvular heart disease is severe, symptoms frequently are absent until heart damage is well advanced. Too often, the patient is unaware that the disease is progressing. By the time it’s caught, it can be too late — resulting in irreversible heart damage and congestive heart failure or sudden death.

Usually, there is a long lag time between the onset of heart valve disease and clinical problems.

Regular evaluation is the key to preventing serious heart disease caused by valve problems. Valve abnormalities can be detected through careful physical examination. Even if a patient has no symptoms, signs of the disease will still exist.

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The Howard Gilman Institute for Heart Valve Disease