How do you manage mitral valve prolapse?
Most people living with MVP do not experience any symptoms or develop complications. Therefore, they do not require treatment. However, a mitral valve prolapse should be monitored.
Even patients with no symptoms should be evaluated by a physician at least every three years, as the valve can deteriorate over time and complications can develop.
Once such complication is mitral regurgitation, where blood leaks back into the left atrium. MR can cause serious health problems.
What is it like living with mitral valve prolapse?
MVP can cause a number of problematic symptoms for some patients, even when it doesn’t pose a major health risk. Palpitations and skipped heartbeats are quite common, as is fatigue, chest pain, and difficulty breathing. Other common symptoms include anxiety attacks, dizziness, and numbness, fainting, headaches, diarrhea, constipation, and nausea.
People who experience these symptoms are said to have the mitral valve prolapse syndrome or mitral valve prolapse with dysautonomia. This needs to be evaluated carefully, though, as symptoms can be an indication that the patient has some degree of regurgitation. When regurgitation is severe, the symptoms and complications can be debilitating. Surgery is often needed to repair or replace the valve if there is significant backflow. Other prolapse complications can be treated accordingly.
Living with MVP means minimizing the symptoms and risks through daily management. Symptoms in low-risk patients can be controlled with drugs like beta blockers and benzodiazepine anxiety medication. Those at higher risk of complications (such as patients who have undergone surgery) may benefit from these drugs, too, but they may also need to take vasodilators, blood thinners, diuretics, and other drugs if their doctor prescribes them.
Furthermore, since people with MVP are at higher risk of developing endocarditis, which can be deadly, antibiotics before dental work with mitral valve prolapse may be necessary for some. Patients should be vigilant with home oral care, flossing and brushing daily, and having their teeth cleaned professionally at least every six months. Though no longer routinely recommended by doctors, antibiotic prophylaxis may also be required before certain medical procedures.
Note: Antibiotic prophylaxis guidelines have changed. In the past, it was recommended that patients with MVP take antibiotics before most types of dental work, as well as other medical procedures. Today, only patients at very high risk of endocarditis are prescribed these preventive drugs.
What about diet, exercise, and supplements for MVP?
Most medical professionals and people living with MVP agree that diet plays a major role in managing it effectively. Just eliminating sugar, caffeine, and alcohol can be very effective in minimizing the symptoms and complications. There are foods to avoid with mitral valve prolapse.
Dietary supplements and herbs like magnesium, B vitamins, and coenzyme q10, and even kava, can be helpful if you have a mitral prolapse. In fact, many people living with the condition report good results with natural remedies and supplements. These can react adversely with medications, though, so it’s important to seek professional medical advice before consuming such products.
Light to moderate exercise (20-30 min daily) can also be beneficial and is generally fine for low-risk patients, but again, one should consult their physician before starting new exercise programs. Aerobic exercises like walking, jogging, swimming, and cycling are often recommended by doctors for people living with mitral valve prolapse. Heart rate and symptoms should be monitored during workouts.
What else can you do when you have a mitral prolapse?
Managing stress is another way to manage the condition. Stress can raise blood pressure, speed up the heart rate, and impede blood flow, which can trigger MVP symptoms. Stress can cause a variety of damage in the body, in fact, yet it is often overlooked by patients.
To de-stress, one can do try meditating, getting regular massages, or doing tai chi or yoga, or even working on a hobby. Some patients find hypnosis and psychotherapy helpful.
Ultimately, there are many ways to alleviate the symptoms of MVP and reduce the risk of complications and problems. Living with mitral valve prolapse can be made easier if proactively managed.