Q&A: Living with Mitral Valve Regurgitation
I have been diagnosed with mitral valve regurgitation. I am 41 years old. What do you recommend to maximize my cardiovascular health?
First, some cardiac geography. The mitral valve is one of the four valves separating the heart chambers, and it's located between the left atrium (the top chamber) and the left ventricle (the lower chamber). Oxygenated blood flows from the lungs into the left atrium, and then through the mitral valve into the ventricle. From the ventricle, blood is pumped out through the aorta and into the rest of the body.
Mitral valve regurgitation (also called mitral insufficiency or incompetence) occurs when the valve doesn't close as tightly as it should and some of the blood spills backward into the atrium. As a result, your heart is less efficient and you may suffer from fatigue and shortness of breath.
Many people over age 55 have some degree of valve regurgitation. In most cases, it's picked up only by an echocardiogram rather than by the doctor's stethoscope. For mild cases, treatment may not be necessary. More severe cases may lead to heart failure or serious arrhythmias, and may require surgery to repair or replace the valve.
The most important preventive measure you can take is to keep your blood pressure in a healthy range, ideally less than 120/80. The higher the systolic pressure—that is, the first number in blood pressure readings—the more blood that can leak backward into the atrium.
To support optimum blood pressure, the two most important factors are normal weight and stress reduction. Nutritional supplements also work well. I recommend hawthorn berry (1,000 mg), garlic (1,000 mg), magnesium (400–800 mg), L-arginine (up to 4 grams), and nattokinase (50–100 mg). Research has also shown that CoQ10 may promote normal blood pressure levels (I would try 160–240 mg) and omega-3 EFAs 2-3 grams daily. Any one or more of these supplements can be helpful.
However, if one of these natural approaches doesn't work, you may need to take a pharmaceutical blood pressure medication prescribed by your doctor.
WATCH: When Is Valve Surgery Appropriate?
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Dr. Stephen Sinatra is a highly respected and sought-after cardiologist and nutritionist with more than 30 years of clinical practice, research, and study. His integrative approach to heart health focuses on reducing inflammation in the body and maximizing the heart's ability to produce and use energy. More About Dr. Sinatra
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