Only 3 in 4 Americans know about this often fatal disease

Published 10:11 am Friday, February 16, 2024

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To the Editor:
While as many as 11.6 million Americans are living with heart valve disease at this very moment, an estimated 3 in 4 have little to no knowledge of what it is.
Heart valve disease occurs when one or more of the heart’s four valves disrupts blood flow. With age being the most common factor that increases risk, other cardiovascular diseases and conditions such as a previous heart attack, hypertension, and high cholesterol increase risk, as well as diabetes, and heart valve damage from some types of cancer treatments. In addition, people in communities of color tend to develop heart valve disease at a younger age and need to get screened earlier. Symptoms can include things we might experience from time to time: lightheadedness, an irregular fluttering heart or chest pain, tiredness, edema, or feeling “off” in general.
Luckily, screening can be as simple as a routine stethoscope check by a medical professional. A stethoscope can detect irregular faint sounds or “murmurs” which signal to your doctor that more tests need to be ordered.
February is Black History Month and American Heart Month, and on February 22, at least 125 organizations across the U.S. and around the world will mark Heart Valve Disease Awareness Day to help close the gap in understanding of this disease.
The first step to protecting yourself is to Listen to Your Heart. Schedule an appointment with your health care provider and get a stethoscope check. Learn more about your risk at and by following #ValveDiseaseDay on social media.

Lindsay Clarke, JD,
Senior VP of Health Education
and Advocacy at the Alliance
for Aging Research in Washington, D.C.

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