Aspirus: What to know about heart valve disease

For the Tomahawk Leader

TOMAHAWK – Aspirus Health this week shined a light on heart valve disease.

In a release, Aspirus said heart valve disease happens when one or more of the heart’s four valves isn’t working correctly.

“Some people have heart valve disease that remains stable throughout their life and doesn’t cause problems,” Aspirus stated. “But for others, the problem slowly worsens. Left untreated, later-stage heart valve disease can lead to heart failure, stroke, blood clots or death due to sudden cardiac arrest.”

Dr. Sublette. Photo courtesy of Aspirus.

Aspirus Health interventional cardiologist Dr. Marcus Sublette shared information on heart valve disease and the symptoms to watch for.

“Your blood is supposed to flow one way through your heart,” Dr. Sublette said. “It enters through the top chambers, flows down to the bottom chambers and out to the rest of your body. This happens with every heartbeat. The heart valves are like gates that direct the traffic. They open – and quickly close – to let the blood keep flowing forward to its next destination. Heart valve disease can stop that from happening.”

Dr. Sublette explained that the two main problems that can happen when heart valves are diseased or damaged are regurgitation and stenosis.

“It’s possible for a valve to have both of these problems,” Aspirus stated. “This occurs when a valve doesn’t close tightly. Blood leaks back into the chambers instead of flowing forward through or out of the heart. The heart has to work harder to pump the backflow. Over time, this can cause the overworked heart muscle to thicken. Backflow can also cause a buildup of fluid in the lungs.”

Many people have heart valve disease without any symptoms. When symptoms occur, they commonly include:

  • A heart murmur or unusual heartbeat. This is the main sign of heart valve disease.
  • Shortness of breath during activity or when lying down.
  • Extreme exhaustion or weakness.
  • Dizziness or fainting.
  • Fluttering or racing heartbeat.

Aspirus said no medicines can cure heart valve disease, but medicines and lifestyle changes can treat many of its symptoms and complications. And if heart valve disease worsens, surgery to replace or repair the heart valve can be effective.

“If you have heart valve disease, your doctor will be able to help you decide on the treatment plan that’s right for you,” Dr. Sublette said.

Dr. Sublette sees patients in Wausau, Rhinelander and Iron River. To find an Aspirus Heart Care clinic near you, visit

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