‘A listen to your heart’ could save your life

Published 10:30 am Friday, February 17, 2023

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To the Editor:
Does your doctor listen to your heart every time you visit? Even the faintest murmurs heard through a stethoscope can be a sign of heart valve disease. A condition affecting more than 11 million Americans, heart valve disease happens when one or more of the heart’s four valves are damaged. Other common symptoms can include lightheadedness, chest pain, tiredness, edema, or feeling “off” in general — but these symptoms are too often shrugged off.
However, shrugging it off can be life-threatening. Undiagnosed heart valve disease kills more than 25,000 people a year, and most deaths are entirely preventable.
That’s why heart checks are so critical. Older age is the most common risk factor for developing heart valve disease, and those with a history of heart attack, hypertension, diabetes, heart failure, and/or cancer are at especially high risk as they age. And, because these risk factors are more prevalent in younger Black Americans, heart valve disease detection in communities of color deserves more attention throughout the lifespan than is currently recognized.
Timing is everything, and we are glad February is both American Heart Month and Black History Month. On February 22, 119 organizations around the world will mark Heart Valve Disease Awareness Day to advocate for equitable early detection and treatment of this serious disease.
The first step is to Listen to Your Heart! Before February 22, schedule your appointment to get a stethoscope check and visit ValveDiseaseDay.org to learn more. Then, help us spread awareness by posting your pic on your favorite social media using the #ListentoYourHeart and #ValveDisease Day hashtags. Together, we will improve detection and treatment and ultimately save lives.

Lindsay Clarke, JD
Senior Vice President
Alliance for Aging Research

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