Congenital heart defects are heart problems present at birth. Some of the walls of the heart may have holes that do not fill in with normal tissue. One or more of the four chambers may be too big or too small. The blood vessels that connect the heart to the body may be routed incorrectly. A heart’s valves (material between the chambers) may not develop normally. Congenital heart defects often need corrective surgery and cause more deaths in the first year of life than any other birth defect.

Valvular heart disease can occur at birth or can become Acquired (Develop over time due to aging, infections, or heart attack). A heart has four valves between each of the four chambers of the heart. A valves job is to keep the blood pumping in the right direction. Sometimes the valves become too thick (aortic stenosis and others). They may prolapse (mitral valve prolapse). They may become floppy and regurgitate (let the blood flow in the wrong direction). Heart valve disease is diagnosed by doctors who hear a heart murmur and may order an Echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart). Patients may notice fatigue, fainting, dizziness, shortness of breath, or swelling of the feet and ankles. Valvular disorders are managed conservatively (diet, exercise, and medicines) for many years until they cause life-threatening symptoms. Then they require surgery to repair or replace the affected valve.

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