I hope I’m not getting my hopes up prematurely, but I believe that I’ve seen it once again: Dramatic reversal of aortic valve disease.
This 64-year old man came to me because of a heart scan score of 212. Jack proved to have small LDL, lipoprotein(a), and pre-diabetes. But there was a wrench in the works: Because of a new murmur, we obtain an echocardiogram that revealed a mildly stiff (“stenotic”) aortic valve, one of the heart valves within the heart that can develop abnormal stiffness with time.
You can think of aortic valve disease as something like arthritis–a phenomenon of “wear and tear” that progresses over time, but doesn’t just go away. In fact, the usual history is that, once detected, we expect it to get worse over the next few years. The stiff aortic valve eventually causes symptoms like chest pains, breathlessness, lightheadedness, and in very severe cases, passing out. For this reason, when symptoms appear, most cardiologists recommend surgical aortic valve replacement with a mechanical or a bio-prosthetic (“pig”) valve.
Now, Jack’s first aortic valve area (the parameter we follow by echocardiogram representing the effective area of the valve opening when viewed end on) was 1.6 cm2. A year later: 1.4 cm2. One year later again: 1.1 cm2.
In other words, progressive deterioration and a shrinking valve area. Most people begin to develop symptoms when they drop below 1.0 cm2.
Resigned to a new valve sometime in the next year or two, Jack underwent yet another echocardiogram: Valve area 1.8 cm2.
Is this for real? I had Jack come into the office. Lo and behold, to my shock and amazement, the prominent heart murmur he had all along was now barely audible.
I’m quite excited. However, it remains too early to get carried away. I’ve now seen this in a handful of people, all with aortic valve disease.
Aortic valve stenosis is generally regarded as a progressive disease that must eventually be corrected with surgery–period. The only other strategy that has proven to be of any benefit is Crestor 40 mg per day, an intolerable dose in my experience.
If the vitamin D effect on aortic valve disease proves consistent in future, even in a percentage of people, then hallelujah! We will be tracking this experience in future.
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