I’m a doctor and here’s the hidden heart condition that can be ‘worse than cancer’ – the signs you need to know | The Sun
HEART conditions can be terrifying.
The heart pumps blood around your body and is one of the most important organs – meaning it's key to keeping it in shape.
But one doctor has now warned of a hidden condition, that they say can be 'worse than cancer'.
Specialist Dr Mamta Buch said that heart valve disease can often go undetected in patients.
The medic explained that this is a condition that is 'increasingly common' as the population gets older.
If you have developed heart valve disease, it means that one or more of the valves in your heart has stopped working properly.
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The organ has four valves that keep blood flowing in the correct direction.
In some cases, one or more don't open or close properly – this in turn causes the blood flow to your body to be disrupted.
Dr Buch, who is a consultant interventional cardiologist at Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester, said those who have the illness are likely to struggle with breathlessness and fatigue.
"If you’re already having symptoms, that can look like a change in exercise capacity, breathlessness, chest discomfort, extreme fatigue. Those aren’t just part and parcel of getting older – don’t dismiss them if there’s clearly been a change, like noticing you can’t quite walk the hill you used to as well.
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“Detecting these things early, recognising it before it’s making you really ill can mean we can watch and monitor them closely. And when you need treatment, you’ll get it at the right time, rather than when the problem has grown even more severe," he told the Manchester Evening News.
He added that some people can die earlier than necessary if the condition if left untreated for too long.
If it's been untreated for two years, there's a high risk of it developing into heart failure and then death, he said.
Dr Buch added: "The outcomes are worse than cancers if we don’t treat them. Of the untimely deaths from heart pump and heart failure problems, one-third had heart valve conditions that went undiagnosed – so they were then admitted to hospital with heart failure."
Many people are unaware of the condition and the symptoms – meaning they skip seeing their GP.
As well as tiredness and feeling breathless, if you have the illness you might also suffer with palpitations, swollen ankles and feet or feeling weak and dizzy.
What are the causes of heart valve disease and what are the symptoms?
Medics at the British Heart Foundation say that the main causes of heart valve disease include:
- being born with an abnormal valve or vales
- having had rheumatic fever – which can develop after a throat infection
- cardiomyopathy – a disease of the heart muscle
- damage to your heart muscle – usually caused by a heart attack
- a previous infection with endocarditis – a condition which refers to the inflammation of the inner living of the heart's chambers and valves
While these could cause the condition – there are also key signs you should be on the lookout for:
- shortness of breath
- feeling weak
- feeling dizzy
- discomfort in your chest
- swollen ankles
- being unusually tired
- heart palpitations
Medics can diagnose the illness by doing a simple check with a stethoscope.
This will also look at your heart rate and will be able to give doctors a signal that there might be a problem with your heart valves.
If anything out of the ordinary is detected, then an ultrasound scan will be arranged.
Dr Buch is hoping heart checks become routine when it comes to GP appointments.
He has partnered with charity Valve Voice to help raise awareness.
As part of the initiative, a bus parks up around the city, with medics offering people free stethoscope checks.
In most cases, heart valve disease is treated based on the severity of your condition.
The British Heart Foundation said that if you're having symptoms or the condition is severe then you might need medication.
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The experts explained: "It will reduce the risk of your heart being damaged or strained. Some people may also need surgery."
Most people who have the illness lead a normal life – but it's important to always check what you can do with your doctor.
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