Tips for Living With Mitral Valve Regurgitation

Mitral valve regurgitation, when some of your blood flows the wrong way through a valve in your heart, doesn’t have to slow you down. This is especially true if you have a mild case of it.

There are lots of ways to help you or a loved one manage the condition and stay as healthy as possible. They include exercise, eating well, support groups, and regular doctor’s visits, among other things.

Some people may need surgery, while lifestyle changes or medications are best for others. You and your doctor will work together to figure out the right plan for you.

It helps to know a few things about the condition before you learn to manage it.

Heart Basics

Your heart has 4 chambers. The upper ones are called the atria, and the lower ones are the ventricles. The mitral valve controls the flow of blood out of the left atrium, where oxygen-rich blood comes in from the lungs and gets pumped out to the rest of the body.

It’s supposed to be a one-way “door,” letting blood out but never back in.

If it’s not working right, some blood can flow back into the left atrium. Depending on your case, you could feel very tired, and have chest pain or shortness of breath when this happens. If it’s not treated, some cases can worsen and cause bigger health problems.

Tests

Getting diagnosed is the first step. Your doctor has several ways to get a better idea of how your condition has progressed:

  • Exercise stress test, in which you are monitored while on a treadmill
  • Chest X-ray
  • CT scan, which uses many X-ray images to create a picture of your heart
  • Echocardiogram, which uses sound waves to make an image of the beating heart, similar to an ultrasound test
  • Cardiac catheterization, in which a thin, flexible tube is guided from a blood vessel to your heart so the doctor can do tests

You may get follow-up tests from time to time, depending on your case.

Managing Your Condition

No matter what stage your regurgitation is in, there are things you can do at home to manage it. Your doctor may bring up many of the following:

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Medication: No medication can directly stop the regurgitation. But medicine might help with other issues it’s causing, such as high blood pressure. Be sure to follow the instructions and talk with your doctor if you feel side effects.

Keep your appointments: You need to make your health a top priority. That means putting visits to your doctor at the top of your to-do list.

Eating well: You need to eat lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and proteins. You’ll need to limit salt, added sugars, saturated and trans fats, and alcohol.

Your doctor may recommend what’s called the “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertensiondiet, or DASH.

Exercise: It plays a big role in managing many types of heart disease. You’ll need to talk to your doctor about what kinds of physical activity are safest for you.

Your doctor might recommend at least two-and-a-half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise every week and a limit on the amount of sitting you do.

Stress: It’s important to learn how to cope with stress in a healthy way. It can trigger a heart attack or chest pain in some people. Medication (prescribed by a doctor), exercise, and relaxation therapy are a few ways to reduce tension.

Smoking: It increases your risk for heart attacks and makes regurgitation worse. If you are a smoker and have trouble stopping, talk to your doctor about ways you can break the habit.

Support Groups

You may find you need help in learning to live with this condition. Maybe you just need someone to talk to.

There are support groups that can help you handle the emotional side of a diagnosis. Family and friends are often a good place to turn for support.

You can also ask your doctor about other support options in your city. She often has people on staff who can get you started.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on August 02, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

Cleveland Clinic: “When Leaky Valves Are at the Heart of the Problem.”

Columbia University Medical Center: “About the Heart.”

Mayo Clinic. “Mitral Valve Regurgitation (Symptoms, Causes).”

American Heart Association: “Heart Valve Problems and Disease.”

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: “How Is Heart Valve Disease Treated?”

American College of Cardiology: “Mitral Valve Regurgitation.”

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