Benefits of Mitral Valve Prolapse and Exercise

An estimated 2% to 4% of the population suffers from some degree of mitral valve prolapse (MVP). If you have this condition, you can exercise safely, and regular exercise is good for you. If you need specific guidance on how much and what types of exercise you should start doing, you can talk to your doctor.

The mitral valve is located between the upper and lower chambers of the left ventricle of the heart. This valve opens to allow blood to move from the upper atrium and lower ventricle on the left side of the heart, and then closes to prevent backflow of blood.

Normally, heart valves are fairly rigid, and they open and close completely on a regular basis. The prolapsed valve is loose and a bit floppy, so it doesn’t close as firmly as it should. It may close with a slight click and may allow a small amount of blood to leak out, creating a heart murmur.

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A large mitral valve prolapse can seep blood back into the top chamber of the heart. This is called mitral regurgitation or “valve leak.”

Mitral valve prolapse is not usually considered life-threatening or progressive. It is one of the more benign causes of a heart murmur. MVP likely has a genetic component, as it can run in families.

Mitral valve prolapse and sudden death

What are the symptoms and complications of MVP?

Many people go their entire lives without symptoms of MVP. Those who do have symptoms may experience heart palpitations, chest pain, fainting, shortness of breath, decreased stamina, fatigue, or general weakness.

A major concern for MVP patients is the potential for long-term complications if not treated properly.

endocarditis

The risk of developing endocarditis, a type of heart infection, is a rare but potential complication of a leaky heart valve.

mitral regurgitation

Mitral regurgitation is the backflow of blood from the ventricle into the atrium. Mitral regurgitation causes the chambers of the heart to widen, the heart muscle to weaken, and in some cases, heart failure.

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Clinically significant mitral regurgitation due to mitral valve prolapse is relatively rare, affecting only about 5% of patients with MVP. People who have had a previous heart attack or have been exposed to the drug Ergomar (ergotamine) for a long time are at the highest risk.

treat

Treatment for MVP depends on the extent of the prolapse. Your symptoms and stage can help your doctor decide if you need treatment.

3 stages of mitral regurgitation

How to Work Out When You Have an MVP

It is important to discuss your individual symptoms with your doctor before starting an exercise program. The heart is a muscle that gets stronger with exercise. Aerobic exercise strengthens the heart and makes it more efficient. This type of workout is often recommended for people with MVPs.

Aerobic exercise includes walking, jogging, swimming or cycling. A moderate pace for 30 minutes at a time is a good way to start. If you feel your heart rate racing or start to feel dizzy or lightheaded, you should monitor your heart rate and slow it down.

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People who experience chest pain, palpitations, or other significant symptoms of MVP sometimes take beta-blockers to slow their heart rate during exercise. Few people give up exercising because of mitral valve prolapse.

Severe cases may require the help of a cardiologist to ensure that exercise does not inadvertently promote mitral regurgitation. In some cases, exercise can put too much pressure on the mitral valve and do more harm than good.

Your cardiologist may ask you to perform an exercise tolerance test, during which you will have an electrocardiogram (ECG) on a treadmill or stationary bike. The results of this test can determine how much exercise you can safely perform without damaging the mitral valve.

When to see a cardiologist