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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

New study warns of heart valve disease risk

A new Australian study has revealed a concerning lack of awareness of the impact and symptoms of heart valve disease – a condition that can lead to heart failure and stroke.  

Heart valve disease is a serious and common condition where one or more of the valves in the heart do not open or close properly, which can lead to problems with blood flow.3 

More than half a million Australians have heart valve disease yet findings from the latest study revealed that only one third (33%) of all Australians are aware of the disease and its impact and challenges.2 This includes those who are living with the disease (3%), know someone personally who is living or has lived with the disease (14%), or are aware of it but don’t know anyone living with it (16%).2 

Common symptoms, such as fatigue, shortness of breath, palpitations and dizziness, can often be dismissed and attributed to old age. Concerningly, some people with heart valve disease do not show symptoms or have no symptoms for many years, even if their disease is severe, all of which can make diagnosis difficult.

“If left undetected and untreated, heart valve disease can damage the heart’s valves and lead to heart failure, stroke, and an irregular heartbeat. These complications can have a significant toll on people’s quality of life and can also result in avoidable deaths,” said leading charity ‘hearts4heart’ CEO and founder, Tanya Hall. 

hearts4heart CEO and founder, Tanya Hall.

“However, if heart valve disease is diagnosed early, it is treatable, and people with the disease can live a full and happy life, which is why during Heart Valve Disease Awareness Week, we are amplifying our efforts to ensure all Australians have the condition front of mind.” 

A simple stethoscope check to identify a heart murmur can help to detect heart valve disease, which can lead to an earlier diagnosis, reduce the risk of complications and enhance quality of life.  

“In too many cases the illness is undetected, undiagnosed, untreated, or treated too late. If left untreated, certain patients with aortic valve disease, with symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest pain, can die within 2 years of diagnosis, a prognosis that is worse than most cancers,” said Professor Dion Stub of Monash University and Interventional Cardiologist, Alfred Health. 

As part of Heart Valve Disease Awareness Week 2024, hearts4heart is supporting heart screening events across the country to help Australians understand their risk of heart valve disease. The screening events will be available to all members of the public at select hospitals in NSW and VIC from 26 February to 7 March. 

For more information on participating locations, visit https://hearts4heart.org.au/event/heart-valve-disease-awareness-week-february-26-march-3/.

This Heart Valve Disease Awareness Week, hearts4heart, along with patients, healthcare professionals and politicians are urging Australians to understand the signs and symptoms of heart valve disease and speak with their GP about getting their heart checked. 

“Prioritising your heart health is not just a precaution, it’s a proactive step in maintaining a good quality of life, ensuring that you can continue to enjoy the moments that matter most,” said Maria Vamvakinou MP Co-chair of Parliamentary Friends of Heart and Stroke Foundations. 

“It is important to speak to your GP today and ask for a stethoscope check. This simple action may save your life by detecting potential issues early and allowing for timely intervention and care,” said Senator Wendy Askew, Co-chair of Parliamentary Friends of Heart and Stroke Foundations.  

If you are concerned about a friend or loved one who may be at risk of heart valve disease, or to access resources and information, visit www.hearts4heart.org.au.

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