Structural Heart

Your Heart's Roadmap

Your heart has four valves with tissue flaps that open and close with every heartbeat. These flaps act as a roadmap for the heart, guiding blood flow in the right direction through the four chambers of your heart and throughout your body. If a problem occurs with one of your heart valves, our team at the DMC is here to help you.

Although some people have heart valve defects they are born with or disease that has developed over time, they may not have symptoms or even any problems. In other cases, the heart valve problem may worsen and cause symptoms to develop. When left untreated, advanced heart valve disease can cause heart failure, stroke, blood clots, or even death.

Navigating Your Care

The Structural Heart/Valve Clinic at the DMC is designed to make your visit more efficient, saving you time away from work or home by making sure you can be seen by our entire team in just one day.

The Structural Heart Program at the DMC encompasses interventional technology as well as the latest in structural heart innovations. The variety of minimally-invasive treatment options gives patients a wide range of personalized choices with the ability to make an educated decision based on their specific diagnosis.

A patient navigator will make all the necessary appointments and schedule you with one of our cardiologists and a cardiovascular surgeon, who are skilled in some of the most innovative valve procedures, and work together to develop your personalized care plan.

What You Can Expect

A visit to the Valve Clinic might include reviewing any previous tests or imaging of your heart, or some new testing may be performed. There are various options for treating valve disease, and our team will discuss those with you. Surgery to fix or replace a faulty valve may be needed. If that is the case, we offer minimally invasive techniques to lessen pain and blood loss, and allow you to get back to your daily routine faster, with a healthier heart.

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A Healthy Heart is Your Best Defense

Heart disease is our country’s number-one killer and it doesn’t stop because of a pandemic. More Americans die from cardiovascular diseases, more than all forms of cancer combined. It is more important now, than ever that you know your risk for heart disease and that you stay on top of treating it if you’ve been diagnosed. According to the CDC, 4 in 10 people have reported avoiding medical care due to concerns over COVID. Your heart health can’t wait, take a health risk or visit your doctor today.

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That being said, there is plenty of good news. Because so much is understood about the risk factors for cardiovascular disease, as well as ways to treat it, you can work with your doctors to greatly reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular issues. Even now, hospital and doctors’ offices are the safest place to be if you’re experiencing a medical emergency.

Causes of Heart Disease

A number of conditions, habits and other factors increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Some are out of your control—for example, everyone’s risk rises with age. But most risk factors are under your control, and making important lifestyle changes can improve your odds of enjoying good heart health.

Some of the risk factors you can control:

  • SMOKING: This is the most important controllable risk factor for cardiovascular disease; a smoker’s risk of developing heart disease is much higher than that of nonsmokers. Smoking also acts with other factors to increase your overall risk.
  • HIGH CHOLESTEROL: As your blood cholesterol level rises, so does your heart disease risk. There are three types of cholesterol: high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good” cholesterol); low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad” cholesterol); and triglycerides.
  • HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE: Blood pressure measures how hard your heart is working to pump blood. High blood pressure strains your heart over time, stiffening the muscle and increasing your risk of heart attack, stroke and other conditions.
  • OBESITY/BEING OVERWEIGHT: Because being overweight or obese can raise cholesterol levels, increase blood pressure and trigger type 2 diabetes, it’s a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
  • TYPE 2 DIABETES: People with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have heart disease or a stroke. If you have prediabetes or diabetes, you have high blood glucose (sugar) levels, which in turn leads to increased plaque buildup in your arteries.

Types of Heart Disease

These are some of the most common cardiovascular conditions:

Heart Attack

Your heart is a muscle—and it needs oxygen to stay alive. Sometimes, plaque (a substance made of up fat and cholesterol) builds up in the arteries that feed your heart, or plaque breaks off and forms a clot that severely or even completely blocks blood flow to the heart muscle, depriving it of oxygen and other nutrients. That’s called ischemia, and when heart muscle begins to die as a result of ischemia, it’s called a heart attack or myocardial infarction.

Ischemic Stroke

As in a heart attack, ischemic stroke happens when plaque builds up on artery walls. In this case, though, the plaque that may form a clot happens in a blood vessel that leads to the brain. When the blood supply to a part of the brain is cut off, brain cells die, potentially damaging your ability to do things like walk or talk.

Arrhythmias

Put simply, an arrhythmia is an abnormal rhythm. Though the heart itself is a muscle, it is controlled by an electrical rhythm, and when that rhythm gets out of whack, the heart doesn’t do its job properly. Arrhythmias can take the form of a too-fast rhythm (tachycardia) or a too-slow rhythm (bradycardia). You can also have atrial fibrillation, which is when an erratic rhythm in the upper chambers of the heart leaves you vulnerable to a stroke, or ventricular fibrillation, an erratic rhythm in the lower chambers of the heart, which is very serious and can trigger cardiac arrest.

Heart Valve Disease

Your heart has four valves, and each valve has a flap of tissue that opens and closes every time your heart beats, controlling the flow of blood into and out of the four chambers of your heart. There are three main problems that affect heart valves: regurgitation, which is when the valve doesn’t close tightly and allows blood to flow backward; stenosis, which is when the flaps of the valve stiffen or fuse together, so the valve can’t open all the way; and atresia, which is when a valve is missing an opening altogether. Some heart valve problems are congenital, which means you’re born with them. In some cases, you can have a heart valve problem your whole life with no symptoms. Or problems can become progressively worse and eventually lead to other forms of cardiovascular disease such as stroke or heart attack.

Don’t let fear keep you from taking control of your heart health. With award-winning, comprehensive cardiac care close to home and the only Comprehensive Stoke center in the valley, Doctors Medical Center has you covered. Take a heart health quiz, or find a cardiologist today at dmc-modesto.com. Your safe care is our #1 priority.