How can heart valve disease (valvular heart disease) be prevented?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Some types of valvular heart disease can be prevented, while others cannot. For example, congenital heart problems, or heart problems you are born with, can't be prevented. On the other hand, you may be able to prevent any mild valvular heart disease you have from worsening, and some types from happening in the first place, through practicing a healthy lifestyle. Such lifestyle changes may include stopping smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and being careful to eat a healthy diet. One specific preventive step that is important to take in preventing valvular disease is to treat strep throat promptly. The type of bacteria that cause strep throat can also cause rheumatic fever, a kind of inflammation that can cause heart valve problems.

To prevent heart valve disease caused by rheumatic fever, see your doctor if you have signs of a strep infection. These signs include a red and painful sore throat, fever, and white spots on your tonsils.
If you do have a strep infection, be sure to take all medicines prescribed to treat it. Prompt treatment of strep infections can prevent rheumatic fever, which damages heart valves.
It's possible that exercise, diet, and medicines that lower cholesterol also might prevent aortic stenosis (thickening and stiffening of the aortic valve). Researchers continue to study this possibility.
A heart healthy eating plan, physical activity, other lifestyle measures, or medicines aimed at preventing a heart attack, high blood pressure, or heart failure also might help prevent heart valve disease.
If you've had previous heart valve disease and now have a man-made valve, you may be at higher risk for a heart infection called endocarditis. Floss and brush your teeth regularly. Gum infections and tooth decay can cause endocarditis.
This answer from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has been reviewed and/or edited by Dr. William D. Knopf.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.