I've been going nuts about my heart murmur for nothing. I have a congenital heart murmur. That means I was born with it. Now, I was born in 1960, when they didn't have all the wonderful medical imaging equipment that they do now. They didn't know the cause of my murmur, and suggested several possibilities (whole in my heart, valve problems, misshapen heart walls). But as it didn't cause any symptoms or interfere in activities, I never worried too much. When I was 16, I was offered a cardiac catheter: a fairly invasive catheter in the groin, snaking up to the heart, where it could snag on the valves and do damage. All to find out the cause of the murmur. But I figured the risks outweighed the benefits, so I took a pass on that. Fast forward to last year, at age 51 my dr wanted to find out what was causing the murmur, so he sent me for a echo cardiogram. And I found out all my valves were leaking, and I was freaked out. I had another echo in Feb, and met with my cardiologist today.
Today, as I was waiting to see the cardiologist, the waiting room was packed with (how to say this politely?) people at least 30 years and 30 pounds more than me. Some were in wheel chairs. Some had oxygen. What was I doing there? I had some other questions too. How sever is my murmur? Should I be worried? What symptoms should I look for? Treatment? Exercise limitations? Should I take meds before seeing the dentist? Are there dietary restrictions? What's the long term prognosis.
After meeting with the cardio doc, I can tell you my long term prognosis is excellent. There's no thickening of the walls. The valve leaflets are normal, there's no narrowing, the leaks in the mitral and tricuspic valves are mild, and the aortic valve leak is moderate. That's the one that needs monitoring. The most important thing is to keep my blood pressure and cholesterol in the normal range (which they are).
If you remember, my personal trainer wanted me to do 45-60 min of intense cardio a day. my cardiologist thinks that's too much. I knew not exercising at all was bad for your heart. Excess cardio exercise, I was surprised to learn, isn't good for your heart. Excess exercise thickens the heart walls, which can change the electrical signals. 20-30 min/day of cardio at 125-140 BPM is sufficient for heart health. I was told that maybe it's a good thing I have bad knees since it keeps me from over exerting myself.
A year from now, if I have no symptoms (palpitations, shortness of breath), I don't need to repeat the echo. Which is a good thing because this over vigilance freaks me out!