Heart Health: Leaky Valves & Heart Murmurs - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Heart Health: Leaky Valves & Heart Murmurs

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A few weeks ago, KTIV anchors Matt Breen and Kristie VerMulm hopped on a treadmill at Mercy Medical Center for a cardiac stress test. It's a pretty simple test to check for heart disease, or an irregular heart beat.

But, as it can also find other problems. doctors found VerMulm had a leaky heart valve, which is something that's pretty common in younger women.

But, that's not the only thing that stress test can detect.

Part of any routine stress test is an echocardiogram. It's a two-dimensional picture of the human heart. Dr. Ramin Artang, Mercy Cardiology says, "You like to see all the muscles going in nice and easy, and symmetrically, and at the same time. That's what you like to see is everything squeezing nice."

The "echo" also let's doctors see how different parts of the heart work. Dr. Ramin Artang, Mercy Cardiology says, "You look at the valve, and see how the structures are. Are these valves opening nice? And, what is the valve itself look like. Then you look and see how blood is flows through the valves. Then you can see how easy it goes through, and if there's a leak."

That's what Dr. Artang saw inside Kristie's heart. Dr. Ramin Artang, "This valve is closing to allow the blood to get out where it's supposed to go to the main pulmonary artery. The tissue gives a little but so that closed valve opens a little bit and some of the blood leaks backwards." In Kristie's case, the leak wasn't significant.

But, in some cases, as much as a-third of the blood flowing through the heart will end up going the wrong direction... forcing the heart to work that much harder. Dr. Ramin Artang, Mercy Cardiology says, "That's why, long-term, that would be too much wear and tear on the heart. And, the heart would start to show signs of failure."

An echo can also catch another problem... a murmur. Dr. Ramin Artang, Mercy Cardiology says, "A heart murmur is blood trying to get through a structure that's narrower than its supposed to be."

Dr. Artang uses a garden hose as an example. Dr. Ramin Artang, Mercy Cardiology says, "It runs normally. Then you put your thumb on the top of that. There are two things you'll see. One is that the flow of the water is faster, and the second thing is the sound. That is exactly what happens in the blood through the heart when its trying to go through a narrow valve."

What follows is shortness of breath, and chest pain.

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