MVP can't be prevented, but it can be treated.
Unlike a three-pack-a-day smoker who has a bad ticker, people with MVP have nothing to feel guilty about. Most people with MVP were born with it, and floppy atrial leaflets sprout more often on some family trees than on others. Those not born with MVP got it as a side effect of other conditions, especially those that affect connective tissues like Marfan syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Even scoliosis can cause MVP.
Most people won't need treatment, but there's hope for those who experience problems. If symptoms are rhythm-related, your doctor may give you beta blockers, which lower blood pressure and relax blood vessels, allowing them to function normally. Other drugs can also get heartbeats back on track and prevent potentially deadly clotting. If the condition is serious, the leaflets can sometimes be surgically trimmed. When this isn't possible, the valve can be replaced with either a mechanical valve or a biological valve (coming from a deceased human or a pig). Biological valves are less likely to cause clotting but usually need replacing after a decade or so. Mechanical valves normally long outlive the rest of your body but require you to take blood thinners daily for the rest of your life to prevent platelets from getting too comfortable as they pass through the new digs.
So if you have MVP, take heart: It's not your fault, it may not cause problems, and most problems can be fixed.
For more articles on the heart and health, try the links below.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Top 5 Heart Attack Symptoms that Should Have You Calling 911
- Top 5 Questions to Ask Your Doctor about Alternative Heart Medicine
- 7 Health Problems for the Modern Age
- Top 5 Pros (and Cons) of Alternative Therapies for Maintaining Heart Health
- Top 5 Foods for a Heart Healthy Diet
- Top 5 Complementary Medicines Used in Hospitals
- 10 Countries with the Highest Life Expectancy
- 20 Everyday Activities and the Calories They Burn
- 9 Medical Myths
- 12 Deadly Diseases Cured in the 20th Century
- 10 Most Profitable Drugs
- 5 Risk Factors for Heart Disease
- What's Your RealAge?
More Great Links
- American Heart Association. "2008 Focused Update Incorporated Into the ACC/AHA 2006 Guidelines for the Management of Patients With Valvular Heart Disease." Circulation. 2008;118: e523-e661. http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/full/118/15/e523
- American Heart Association. "Ask the Pediatric Cardiologist: Infective (Bacterial) Endocarditis." (Oct. 13, 2008). http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=3051384
- American Heart Association. "Mitral Valve and Mitral Valve Prolapse." http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4717
- American Heart Association. "Your Heart and How it Works." (Oct. 13, 2008). http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=1557
- Franklin Institute. "The Human Heart: An Online Exploration from the Franklin Institute." (Oct. 13, 2008). http://www.fi.edu/learn/heart/
- Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. "Beta Blockers." July 1, 2008. (Oct. 26, 2008) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/beta-blockers/HI00059
- Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. "Heart Disease." (Oct. 13, 2008). http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/heart-disease/HB99999
- Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. "Heather's Back: Full of energy and free of worry." 2008 (Oct. 13, 2008).http://www.mayoclinic.org/patientstories/story-45.html
- Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. "Mitral Valve Prolapse." Jan. 24, 2008. (Oct. 26, 2008). http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/mitral-valve-prolapse/DS00504
- McMahon, R.F.T.; Sloan, P. Essentials of Pathology for Dentistry. Elsevier Health Sciences, 2000. ISBN 0443057060, 9780443057069. Pgs. 101-109. http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&id=EZ5RBdaatIIC&dq=Essentials+of+Pathology+for+Dentistry&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=x8vnMGkov8&sig=7q4mdACYD5JR0C8IqT_NZ0Sv1Vo&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=5&ct=result
- Medline Plus. "Heart Valve Diseases." U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health. May 28, 2008 (Oct. 13, 2008). http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/heartvalvediseases.html
- Merck. "Heart and Blood Vessel Disorders: Heart Valve Disorders." Reviewed by Paul H. Tanser, MD, May 2006 (Oct. 13, 2008). http://www.merck.com/mmhe/sec03/ch028/ch028a.html
- Merck. "Mitral Valve Prolapse (MVP)." May 2006. (Oct. 26, 2008) http://www.merck.com/mmhe/sec03/ch028/ch028c.html
- National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. "Mitral Valve Prolapse." (Oct. 26, 2008) http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/mvp/mvp_signsandsymptoms.html
- PACE (Pacing and Clinical Electrophysiology). "Ventricular Arrhythmia Factors in Mitral Valve Prolapse."
- Babuty, D.; Cosnay, P.; Breuillac, J.C.; Charniot, J.C.; Delhomme, C.; Fauchier, L.; Fauchier, J.P. June 30, 2006. (Oct. 26, 2008).http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/119969614/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0
- Roizen, Michael F. M.D., and Mehmet C. Oz, M.D. "YOU: The Owner's Manual." HarperCollins. 2005.
- St. Jude Medical. "Heart Valve Replacement." 2008 (Oct. 13, 2008).http://www.sjm.com/procedures/procedure.aspx?name=Heart+Valve+Replacement
- Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital. "Valve Repair/Replacement." July 2007 (Oct. 13, 2008). http://www.texasheartinstitute.org/hic/topics/proced/vsurg.cfm
- The Society of Thoracic Surgeons. "Heart Surgery Terms." 2007 (Oct. 13, 2008). http://www.sts.org/sections/patientinformation/otherresources/heartsurgterms/index.html#acquiredaorticvalvedisease
How are skipping breakfast and atherosclerosis related? Learn about the results of a new study in this HowStuffWorks article.