main of Heart Valves are Hard Working and Underappreciated

Heart Valves are Hard Working and Underappreciated

Most people give little thought to their hearts until they have a problem.

Sometimes it speeds up due to exercise or stress. It slows down when people fall asleep. Every day, it moves enough blood through the system to meet your body's need for oxygen.

The heart is an amazing living machine that pumps up to 2,000 gallons of blood every day. That number breaks down to 1.38 gallons per minute. Not only does the heart pump an incredible volume of blood every day, but it also repairs itself. This self-repair ability is how the heart can work every day without stopping. The valves of the heart are the main sections which provide heart function. This article will look at some of the various heart valve issues. 

Different Valves of the Heart

The human heart has four chambers and four valves (one for each chamber). Blood moves into the heart from the arterial system (deoxygenated blood) through the superior vena cava. It enters and loads up the right atrium before it moves through the tricuspid valve into the right ventricle.

Blood then leaves the heart to move into the lungs through the pulmonary valve and pulmonary artery. The blood then takes on oxygen in the lungs, returns to the heart via the pulmonary veins, and fills the left atrium.

Oxygenated blood then travels through the mitral valve to the left ventricle. Finally, the heart pumps blood out of the left ventricle. It heads through a person's aortic valve into a person's aorta, which moves oxygenated blood into the body.

The pulmonary, tricuspid and aortic valves have three leaflets that comprise the valve. The mitral valve only has two leaflets.

Common Heart Valve Conditions

There’s a number of different heart valve conditions that people may suffer from. Some of the most common ones include: 

  • Stenosis - A narrowing in the valve is called a stenosis, often caused by calcification or sclerosis that thickens one or more leaflets. It can restrict blood flow if severe enough.
  • Prolapse - This valve problem occurs when damage to one or more leaflets prevents a valve from completely closing. Prolapsed valves often cause heart murmurs (odd sounds from the heart). The condition is frequently benign unless significant leakage develops.
  • Regurgitation - Happens when a damaged valve allows some blood to leak backward against the flow. This problem forces the heart to work harder to push blood through the system. It can cause circulatory problems and enlarged heart chambers.
  • Atresia - This is a missing or malformed valve.

Keys to Good Heart Valve Health

There’s a lot of things that can be done to ensure that your heart valves are as healthy as possible. Some of the things to do include: 

  1. Heart-Healthy Diet - This goal includes eating healthy fruits and vegetables while limiting fat, sugar, and salt. In addition, a heart-healthy diet is designed to restrict cholesterol build-up in blood vessels and maintain low blood pressure.
  2. Moderate Exercise - The heart is a muscle. Like all muscles, it will get stronger with exercise. In addition, regular exercise will lower the resting heart rate, which will reduce the workload on the heart. However, people with a known heart condition should consult a cardiologist before starting an exercise program.
  3. Maintain A Healthy Weight - More mass increases the amount of work the heart has to do to pump blood through the body.
  4. Good Dental Health - Infectious agents can enter the bloodstream through the teeth and gums and attack the heart valves (endocarditis). Patients with repaired or replaced heart valves may require a course of antibiotics before any dental treatment.
  5. Avoid Colds and Flu - Colds and flu can also cause infections that worsen existing heart valve damage. Taking flu vaccines and avoiding close contact with others during cold and flu season can help.
  6. Stop Smoking - Smoking promotes heart and valve disease.
  7. Hydrate - Good hydration helps blood flow and reduces the workload on the heart.