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World Heart Day is observed on 29 September every year. Today, we will take a look at an issue affecting the proper functioning of your heart. Heart valve disorders can affect any valves in your heart and one such disorder is leaky heart valve.
What Is Leaky Heart Valve?
Our heart has four valves, namely,
- the tricuspid valve, which is located between the right atrium and the right ventricle,
- the pulmonary valve, which is located between the right ventricle and the pulmonary artery,
- the mitral valve, which is located between the left atrium and the left ventricle and
- the aortic valve, which is located between the left ventricle and the aorta.
These valves consist of flaps that allow the blood to flow in a single direction while passing through the chambers of the heart. Then, once the blood passes through, the valves close to keep the blood from flowing backwards into the chamber. That is, the valves allow the proper and guided flow of blood   .
Leaky heart valve can affect any of the four valves in your heart. The condition causes the pumped blood to leak back, through the valve. When the blood leaks back through the valve, it is called valve regurgitation.
Symptoms Of Leaky Heart Valve
In most people, the condition does not develop any signs. Medical experts point out that many healthy people can have one or more slightly leaky valves, and in most, it does not give way to any severe health condition  .
In case of a severe leak in the valves, it can hinder with the flow of blood and develop symptoms of congestive heart failure. Leaky heart valve alone does not develop any specific symptoms, it acts as the cause of severe cardiovascular issues.
So, in common, the indicative symptoms of leaky heart valves are as follows  :
- Fluid retention in your body
- Swelling of legs
- Shortness of breath, especially with exertion or when lying flat
- Heart fluttering
- Rapid heartbeat
Causes Of Leaky Heart Valve
To understand the reasons that contribute towards the development of a leaky heart valve, it is necessary to examine the causes in accordance with the valves.
Leaky heart valve and tricuspid regurgitation: As mentioned before, valve regurgitation is when the blood leaks through the valve, so tricuspid regurgitation occurs when the blood leaks back through the tricuspid valve  .
The leaky tricuspid valve is commonly reported in many healthy adults and is mostly discovered incidentally as it does not pose any problems to the individual  . It usually does not require treatment or follow-up. Moderate or severe tricuspid regurgitation causes due to pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the pulmonary artery).
Leaky heart valve and pulmonary regurgitation: This is also reported in healthy individuals. Pulmonary regurgitation does not pose any severe problems and is caused by elevated blood pressure in the pulmonary artery (pulmonary hypertension) and a previous surgery as a child to repair a severe heart defect  .
Leaky heart valve and mitral regurgitation: This is caused by mitral valve prolapse (an improper closing of the valve), an enlarged heart (called cardiomyopathy) due to hypertension, coronary artery disease, or another cause, endocarditis and rheumatic heart disease.
Leaky heart valve and aortic regurgitation: This develops due to a bicuspid aortic valve (which means the valve has two flaps instead of the normal three), high blood pressure or hypertension, infection of the heart valve (endocarditis), Marfan syndrome and rheumatic heart disease  .
Diagnosis Of Leaky Heart Valve
The doctor will carry out the medical examination through the following  :
- Examining your results of an echocardiogram
- Listening to the heart with a stethoscope for abnormal sounds such as a heart murmur
According to the symptoms and the examinations, the doctor will be able to analyse the seriousness of the condition.
Treatment For Leaky Heart Valve
The medical attention and care for a leaky heart valve depend on the valve affected  .
For tricuspid regurgitation: It does not require treatment or follow-up. Medicines may not be effective in treating this condition. Diuretics, or water pills, can help relieve the body swelling. Apart from these, it leaky valve is corrected during surgery for other leaky heart valves. Surgery to replace the tricuspid valve by itself is very rare.
For pulmonary regurgitation: No treatment is required for pulmonary regurgitation in most cases. The best method is to treat the underlying medical condition.
For mitral regurgitation: For some people, treatment is not necessary. Surgery to repair or replace a severe case can result in significant improvement for certain people.
For aortic regurgitation: People with symptoms due to severe aortic valve regurgitation may benefit from certain blood pressure medicines. Mostly, people with aortic regurgitation only require observation over time. In severe cases, diuretics can be beneficial. When aortic regurgitation is severe, surgery is sometimes recommended.
FAQs On Leaky Heart Valve
Q. Can a leaky heart valve cause death?
A. If heart valve disorders such as a leaky heart valve (in severe cases) are not treated in time, it can lead to heart failure, stroke or sudden cardiac death.
Q. How can I strengthen my heart valve naturally?
A. For strengthening your heart valve, follow these steps  ,
- Eat at least 5 servings of vegetables and 4 servings of fruits daily.
- Cut back on calorie-dense foods loaded with fat, sugar, and/or refined grains.
- Limit consumption of sodium to a healthy level.
- Limit alcohol drinking.
- Exercise daily.
Q. Can stress affect heart health?
A. Yes. Stress can affect behaviours and factors that increase heart disease risk such as high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, smoking, physical inactivity and overeating etc.
Q. Does walking make the heart stronger?
A. Yes. Walking can help make your heart stronger because it is a great form of exercise that puts the heart into action. By working your heart (by pumping blood), it strengthens the muscles thereby, making your heart stronger. When you engage in a regular walking program, your heart will become more efficient, bringing more oxygen and nutrients to your organs  .
Q. How long do artificial heart valves last?
A. Mechanical valves in some patients have lasted as long as 25 years without problems. Tissue valves in some patients have lasted as long as 15 years without problems.
Q. What foods are good for heart valves?
A. Leafy green vegetables, whole grains, berries, walnuts, dark chocolate, beans, avocados etc. 
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