February is Heart Month and we aren’t talking about Valentine’s Day! While Feb. 14 often steals the spotlight, Feb. 22 is also an important heart-related day: Heart Valve Disease Awareness Day.
And while flowers and chocolates are nice, Heart Valve Disease Awareness Day and Heart Valve Voice’s Listen to Your Heart challenge could quite literally save your life.
What’s the challenge? Simply have your heart listened to by a healthcare provider, and pass it on:
- First, schedule an appointment to get your heart listened to (and keep it!).
- Second, get a loved one to schedule an appointment to get their heart listened to.
Heart Valve Voice Canada and the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada remind us that heart disease, while more common in those over 50, can strike at any age and ‘listening’ to your heart could very well save your life.
Signs and symptoms of heart valve disease can include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness and/or pain
- Light-headedness or dizziness
- Abnormal heart rhythm sensations (i.e. irregular heart beat)
These symptoms are not always severe and in some cases individuals may have no notable symptoms at all – as was the case for Christian who at only 38, got an unexpected diagnosis while attending a routine medical exam.
In early 2021, Christian Nielsen was preparing to immigrate to Vancouver from the UK with his wife, Michelle and their two young children. While attending a routine pre-visa application check up, Nielsen’s doctor detected a heart murmur.
Nielsen had always lived an active and healthy lifestyle and found the diagnosis hard to believe. His doctor referred him to a cardiologist and tests indicated a faulty aortic heart valve was causing the murmur, which despite no obvious symptoms, was leaking severely and would require surgery.
Supported by his otherwise good health and active lifestyle, Nielsen received surgery in the UK a month later. He made a full recovery over 6 weeks, and by October of 2021, Nielsen, his wife and children made the move to Vancouver as they had originally planned prior to his unexpected diagnosis. Over time, Nielsen has been able to continue his love of cycling – often biking up to 60 kilometres a week – without any issues thanks to his new mechanical heart valve and a lucky early diagnosis.
Stories like Nielsen’s are a great reminder to never take life for granted and to join the #ListentoYourHeart Challenge this Heart Health Awareness month!
Help raise awareness by sharing Christian’s story, getting your own heart checked and encouraging your loved ones to do the same, even if they have no pre-existing symptoms. Find more information at heartvalvevoice.ca and follow Heart&Stroke Canada on Facebook and Instagram.