Structural heart disease is serious, and as with any condition regarding the heart, it is important to take action as quickly as possible so that you can go on to lead a safe, healthy lifestyle. We break down the basics of structural heart disease below so that you can be best prepared for your health and the health of your loved ones.
What is Structural Heart Disease?
Structural heart disease involves issues with the tissues and valves of the heart. Many cases of structural heart disease are congenital or something that can develop over time from “wear and tear” of the heart. Wear and tear can be anything from a leaky heart valve to damaged tissue and more. According to MyHeart.net, “heart valve disease is by far the most common structural heart disease encountered by structural heart specialists in clinical practice.”
How Structural Heart Disease Develops
Structural heart disease can develop as a result of unhealthy lifestyle choices. Ask yourself these questions, and if you answer “yes” to even one of them, you could be someone who is more susceptible to developing structural heart disease.
- Do I have regular bouts of high blood pressure (hypertension)?
- Do I abuse drugs or alcohol?
- Do I eat poorly?
- Do I need to get more exercise?
Warning Signs and Symptoms
Since there are several types of structural heart disease, warning signs and symptoms can be different for everyone. Depending on the severity of the condition, warning signs and symptoms of structural heart disease include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Chest tightness
- High blood pressure
- Leg cramps
- Extreme fatigue
- Strokes and mini-strokes
- Kidney disfunction
- Irregular heartbeat
How is Structural Heart Disease Diagnosed?
If you were not born with structural heart disease, there are several ways in which your doctor can diagnose you. The first step is to schedule an annual physical exam. During the exam, your doctor may recommend additional testing if he or she detects any symptoms of structural heart disease. Your doctor will also ask you about family history, your own personal medical history, and examine your general health and daily habits.
Additional testing of the heart will best determine the severity of your condition and any changes that develop over time if additional testing is to be done regularly. Additional testing can include:
- Blood test (assesses a variety of health factors, from red blood cell count to organ function)
- Urine sampling (detects problems with kidney/bladder function that could contribute to heart problems)
- Chest X-ray (shows the size of your heart and if there is any fluid buildup in your lungs)
- Echocardiogram (ultrasound to assess the heart’s function)
- EKG (or electrocardiogram where wires with patches are placed on your chest, arms and legs. This tests the electrical function of your heart.)
- Cardiac MRI (imaging test that shows your beating heart and blood vessels)
- Angiogram (insertion of a catheter into a blood vessel to the heart)
- Stress test (exercising to show your heart’s response to stress)
How is Structural Heart Disease Treated?
Oftentimes when people think of treating heart disease, they imagine open-heart surgery. While open-heart surgery is still a form of treatment, minimally-invasive procedures also exist. At North Ohio Heart | Ohio Medical Group, we are proud to be part of the medical advancements taking place in structural heart disease procedures. Some of the most common minimally-invasive procedures include:
- Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR): Through thin tubes called catheters, instruments are passed up to the heart used to execute the treatment. During this procedure, the catheter is typically placed in the leg, where new valves are passed through to the heart in a highly compressed state. When placed in the correct position, the valve can then expand to the desired size of a fully-functioning heart valve.
- Transcatheter Mitral Valve Repair (TMVR): For patients with a mitral leaky valve, also known as mitral regurgitation, a transcatheter clip is placed on the leaky portion of the valve, reducing the leak.
- Atrial Septal Defects (ASD) and Ventricular Septal Defects (VSD): For patients with holes in the chambers of the heart, this catheter-based procedure can cover and close holes in the heart.
- Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HOCM): If you are a patient with an enlarged heart that causes obstruction of blood flow to the heart, this catheter-based procedure involves injecting a small amount of alcohol into the area, causing the obstruction to shrink.
There are many other minimally-invasive procedures to treat structural heart disease. Remember, if you are experiencing any warning signs or symptoms of structural heart disease, make an appointment with your doctor immediately. In the meantime, stay educated and up-to-date on heart disease, with our heart disease guide.