Mitral Valve Regurgitation: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Mitral valve regurgitation

The mitral valve lets blood flow from the upper to lower areas of the heart. Mitral valve regurgitation occurs when the valve cannot close all the way and blood backs up (regurgitates) into the upper area of the heart. This causes the heart to work harder to pump the extra blood.

Mild regurgitation causes few problems. Many people have it for many years without having problems. But if the regurgitation is severe, it can weaken the heart and lead to heart failure.

The causes of mitral valve regurgitation include a heart attack, heart infection (endocarditis), mitral valve prolapse, cardiomyopathy, calcium buildup in the heart, the weight-loss medicine fen-phen, and diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Some people are born with the valve problem.

Your doctor may just want to watch your health closely if you have mild mitral valve regurgitation. For more severe disease, you may need medicine or surgery to fix the valve.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Be safe with medicines. Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
  • Eat heart-healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, lean meats, and low-fat or non-fat dairy foods. Limit sodium, sugar, and alcohol.
  • Be active. Ask your doctor what type and level of exercise is safe for you. Walking is a good choice. You also may want to swim, bike, or do other activities. Let your doctor know if your ability to exercise changes.
  • Do not smoke. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • Stay at a healthy weight. Lose weight if you need to.
  • Avoid colds and flu. Get a pneumococcal vaccine shot. If you have had one before, ask your doctor if you need another dose. Get a flu vaccine every year.
  • Take care of your teeth and gums. Get regular dental checkups. Good dental health is important because bacteria can spread from infected teeth and gums to the heart valves.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have severe trouble breathing.
  • You cough up pink, foamy mucus.
  • You have symptoms of a heart attack. These may include:
    • Chest pain or pressure, or a strange feeling in the chest.
    • Sweating.
    • Shortness of breath.
    • Nausea or vomiting.
    • Pain, pressure, or a strange feeling in the back, neck, jaw, or upper belly or in one or both shoulders or arms.
    • Light-headedness or sudden weakness.
    • A fast or irregular heartbeat.
    After you call 911, the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength or 2 to 4 low-dose aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or increased shortness of breath.
  • You are dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you may faint.
  • You have sudden weight gain, such as more than 1 to 1.3 kilograms in a day or 2 kilograms in a week. (Your doctor may suggest a different range of weight gain.)
  • You have increased swelling in your legs, ankles, or feet.
  • You are suddenly so tired or weak that you cannot do your usual activities.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if you develop new symptoms.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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