CARDIOVASCULAR
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Heart valve disease develops if one or more of your heart’s four valves is not working properly. More than 5 million Americans are diagnosed with heart valve disease every year.1

If you’ve just started learning about heart valve disease, you’re in good company. A recent survey from the Alliance for Aging Research found that 40% of people in the U.S. knew nothing about heart valve disease.2 Yet this condition could affect you or your loved ones.

To learn about heart valves and how they function, it’s a good idea to first review the parts of the heart overall.

THE CHAMBERS OF YOUR HEART 

The heart has four chambers. The atria are the smaller chambers on the top, and the ventricles are the larger chambers on the bottom.

Right atrium receives blood from the body that is low in oxygen.

Right ventricle pumps that low-oxygen blood to the lungs, where the blood is filled with oxygen.

Left atrium receives the oxygen-rich blood from the lungs.

Left ventricle pumps that oxygen-rich blood out to the entire body.

THE VALVES OF YOUR HEART

To move blood into or out of the four chambers, the heart has four valves.

Tricuspid valve allows oxygen-depleted blood to flow from the right atrium to the right ventricle.

Pulmonary valve allows blood to flow from the right ventricle to the lungs, where the blood receives oxygen.

Mitral valve allows oxygen-rich blood to flow from the left atrium to the left ventricle.

Aortic valve allows the oxygen-rich blood from the left ventricle out to the entire body.

heart valves

Blue areas = oxygen-poor blood

Red areas = oxygen-rich blood

PROPER FUNCTION OF HEART VALVES

When they are working properly, the heart valves function in a regular, rhythmic way, opening and closing with each heartbeat.

It’s important that the valves allow blood to flow in just one direction. Therefore the valves should always:

  • Open fully so that the right amount of blood can pass through
  • Close tightly so that no blood leaks back into the heart chamber it comes from

WHY HEART VALVE PROBLEMS OCCUR

Heart valve problems can develop as a result of birth defects, age-related changes in the valve, certain infections, or other health conditions.

Other pages will explain more about heart valve disease. 

LEARN MORE FROM OTHER SOURCES

You can also find out more about heart valve disease from well-regarded sources such as:

American Heart Association

www.heart.org

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

www.nhlbi.nih.gov

The American College of Cardiology (an organization for cardiologists) Patient Website

www.cardiosmart.org


References

1. CardioSmart: American College of Cardiology. Understanding Heart Valve Disease. https://www.cardiosmart.org/heartvalvedisease. Accessed February 12, 2019.
2. American Heart Association. Under-recognized heart valve disease kills estimated 25,000 each year. https://newsarchive.heart.org/under-recognized-heart-valve-disease-kills-. Datestimated-25000-each-year/. Accessed February 11, 2019.

The information provided is not intended for medical diagnosis or treatment as a substitute for professional advice. Consult with a physician or qualified healthcare provider for appropriate medical advices.

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