As a result, the heart becomes even weaker and can even fail

As a result, the heart becomes even weaker and can even fail

As a result, those affected are less productive and the left ventricle is permanently overloaded. As a result, the heart becomes even weaker and can even fail. 

Those affected often do not notice the leaky heart valve for a long time. Only when the insufficiency has reached a certain extent does performance decrease. Patients feel shortness of breath when they are exerted, and later also when they are at rest. Edema, i.e. water retention, especially in the lungs, nocturnal cough and palpitations are possible symptoms.

If the heart is weak, the valve often no longer closes properly

There are many causes of mitral regurgitation. Medical professionals distinguish the primary form in which congenital abnormalities cause the heart valve not to close properly.

However, the secondary form, which often occurs as a result of heart failure, is more common. This mainly affects older patients. “In the secondary form, the valve is functionally intact,” says Baldus. “Since the heart chamber becomes larger due to the weak heart, the cusps of the mitral valve can no longer close properly.”

Germs can also damage the valve

In rare cases, bacterial inflammation can also damage the heart valve. “The valve leaflets then literally melt away and can no longer fulfill their function,” explains the cardiologist. In this case, rapid surgery is often the only way out.

A small clip closes the flap

Treatment depends on the cause of the disease. In secondary mitral regurgitation, the underlying disease, i.e. heart failure, is first treated with medication. Only when those affected suffer from severe shortness of breath can an operation be considered. Alternatively, a small clip can be inserted through the inguinal vein, the so-called Mitraclip, which mechanically supports the closing of the mitral valve. The advantage of this method is that it can be carried out without surgery and is therefore particularly gentle on patients with advanced cardiac insufficiency.

It is different with primary mitral regurgitation. “Patients benefit greatly from an early reconstruction of the heart valve, even if they have hardly any symptoms at first,” says Stephan Baldus. The cusps are repaired in one operation or the holding threads of the valve are corrected with new ones. If those affected are already very old or weakened and an operation is too risky, the mitral valve clip procedure can also be considered here. 

Further information on the subject of cardiovascular diseases can be found on the Heart Foundation homepage at

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Snow and cold: finally winter sports enthusiasts have the best conditions. But heart disease and elderly people should avoid great exertion when temperatures are below zero. That is the advice of the German Heart Foundation. Anyone who suddenly feels chest pain in freezing temperatures should see a doctor immediately.

The combination of physical exertion and the cold is a great risk to the heart. Among other things, cardiac arrhythmias or ventricular fibrillation are observed more frequently in winter. The severe cold can then cause chest tightness and heart pain. In the case of exceptional stress, this can even lead to a heart attack or sudden cardiac death.

Watch out for burning and tightness in your chest

When it is extremely cold, the body reduces the blood flow to the skin or muscles in order to keep heat loss as low as possible. The result: the vascular resistance, blood pressure and heart rate increase. This ultimately means that the heart muscle consumes more oxygen. So the heart has to work

And that is exactly what leads to a circulatory disorder of the heart muscle and thus to angina pectoris in people with deposits in the coronary artery system. Typical symptoms for this disease are, for example, a feeling of pressure or tightness in the chest or a burning sensation in the heart area, some of which radiates to the shoulder.

Wrap up warm in freezing temperatures

But that doesn’t mean that old people and people with heart problems shouldn’t move around in the cold air in winter. In order to protect yourself, the Heart Foundation recommends wearing a scarf when the temperature is below zero and pulling it at least over your mouth. This filters the ice-cold air a little. Winter walks at temperatures down to minus five degrees are usually no problem.

With temperatures in the double-digit minus range, risk patients should reduce outdoor exercise to a minimum. Then there are alternatives in the sports hall or indoor pool. The German Heart Foundation generally recommends exercising at least three times a week for 20 to 30 minutes, even in winter.

Sauna yes – cold pool no

To really heat up in the sauna in winter is tempting and also possible for heart patients. However, the prerequisite is that they can manage 75 watts per minute and that the heart rhythm is stable. In addition, the sauna temperature should not exceed 80 degrees Celsius and you should only stay in the sauna as long as you feel comfortable. Particularly important: those with heart disease should not jump into the cold water after using the sauna. That puts too much strain on the heart. It is better to cool off slowly.

Those who regularly consume omega-3 fatty acids can lower their risk of cardiovascular diseases. That was the result of an international meta-analysis. The healthy fatty acids are particularly found in nuts, whole grains, rapeseed oil and fish.

Whether or not omega-3 fatty acids affect heart health has been the subject of controversy. For their study, Dr. Darish Mozaffarian from Tufts University Boston and Liana C. Del Gobbo from Stanford University evaluated 19 studies with a total of 46,000 people. In doing so, they also took into account the change in special biomarkers. 

Consume omega-3 fats daily

Their evaluations led to the result that vegetable and marine omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases by nine percent. The experts recommend consuming omega-3 fatty acids daily.

Salmon and spinach for a healthy heart

Many omega-3 fatty acids are found in salmon and other fatty fish, for example, but also in nuts and some cooking oils such as rapeseed oil. It has only recently been known that spinach and other green leafy vegetables strengthen the heart. Spinach, broccoli and Swiss chard are rich in folic acid. This B vitamin also protects against arteriosclerosis.

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Fiber and antioxidants protect the heart

Dietary fiber from grains and legumes has a positive effect on cholesterol levels and in this way protects the heart. Oats and lentils contain a particularly large amount of healthy fiber. In addition, antioxidants – these are plant-based protective substances that are mainly found in fruit and vegetables – are protective factors for the heart and blood vessels. A balanced diet that is rich in plant-based foods and fish, but low in meat and animal fats, is therefore recommended to prevent cardiovascular diseases.

For a business trip to the USA or on vacation to Mallorca: What is normal for many people often becomes a challenge for patients with heart disease. Before getting on the bus, car or plane, heart patients should be well informed. For some of those affected, flying is even taboo.

In Germany, millions of people are affected by cardiovascular diseases. In most cases, however, they do not have to cancel their vacation: “Cardiac patients are usually allowed to fly. The decisive factor for a patient with coronary artery disease (CHD) or heart failure is the efficiency of the heart,” says cardiologist Prof. Wolfgang Schöls from the Scientific Advisory board of the German Heart Foundation and head of the Duisburg Heart Center.

First to the doctor, then to the plane

“In order to avoid complications above the clouds, those affected should have a cardiologist determine their suitability for air travel before planning their trip,” says the heart specialist. For example, the slight lack of oxygen in a passenger jet at cruising altitude leads to an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and increased oxygen consumption of the heart. “Those affected with CHD or heart failure cannot easily compensate for this.”

Whether you can get on a plane after a heart attack depends, among other things, on the severity of the infarction, but also on the limitation of physical performance. After a heart attack, patients should wait three weeks to three months before taking a flight, advises the German Heart Foundation. And even then, they should be so resilient that they do not experience any discomfort when walking or climbing fewer stairs.

Better to sit in the aisle if you have a weak heart

Even those who suffer from a weak heart should have their own resilience determined by a doctor before starting their journey. If symptoms such as shortness of breath, exhaustion or tightness of the heart worsen in the last four weeks before the trip, caution is required, according to Schöls.

Those affected should carry the necessary documents with them and ideally book an aisle seat near the toilet. Because patients with heart failure often take diuretics. The slight lack of oxygen on the plane increases the urge to urinate, said Schöls.

Every heart patient should therefore seek advice from their doctor several weeks before a planned trip. Only he can judge whether the person concerned is fit to travel.

Thrombosis stockings: often indispensable

In addition, you should ask the doctor specifically whether it is advisable to wear thrombosis stockings during the flight or to give heparin injections before the flight. Because sitting for long periods of time carries the risk of thrombosis or even pulmonary embolism. The German Heart Foundation explains that patients who suffer from venous disease or who have recently had an operation are particularly at risk. People with coagulation disorders and smokers would also have an increased risk.

The heart experts therefore recommend the following on-board gymnastics during the flight: alternately lift the heel and toe, let the feet circle, bend and straighten the lower legs repeatedly and raise the knees. Regular mini-walks in the corridor also get the blood flowing. Passengers should also drink enough juices and water so that the blood can flow more easily. Alcohol is taboo.

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The German Heart Foundation gives detailed recommendations on how travelers with heart disease can prepare for their vacation.

For many people, freshly brewed coffee is the perfect way to start the day. But the popular hot drink still has the image of being heartfelt – despite studies that show the opposite. Now, Brazilian researchers are even claiming that even patients with arrhythmias can easily drink five cups of coffee a day.

The researchers around the physician Luis Rohde are based on the results of a study that they carried out at the Hospital de Clínicas de Porto Alegre and published in the journal “JAMA Internal Medicine”. 

Test subjects all suffered from heart failure 

51 patients with an average age of 61 years took part in the study. All of them suffered from heart failure and therefore had to take beta blockers regularly. In addition, all study participants had an implanted defibrillator that recorded irregularities in the heartbeat. 

Five cups of coffee didn’t get the heart out of sync

For the study, the patients consumed five cups of decaffeinated coffee per day, with 100 milligrams of caffeine per drink in the first test group and lactose powder in the second. The subjects then completed a stress test on the bicycle ergometer.

The result: Despite the high dose of caffeine, the ECG showed no arrhythmias (irregularities) in the heartbeat, neither at rest nor during physical exertion. “To date, there is no tenable evidence for the common recommendation that patients with an increased risk of arrhythmia should avoid moderate coffee consumption,” the authors sum up.

Long-term studies lead to reliable information

The medical professionals point out, however, that the study examined only short-term and not long-term effects. In order to make concrete recommendations regarding coffee consumption, more in-depth studies would have to be carried out with a higher number of patients. In addition, many test subjects are strong coffee drinkers and may therefore be used to high doses of caffeine. 

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The advice seems simple: “Eat healthy and get plenty of exercise and the pounds will drop too.” But it’s not always that simple. Because being overweight can have various causes. Sometimes there is even a disease behind it. Five reasons for being overweight that don’t come straight from eating.

It is well known that if you eat more calories than you use, you gain weight. The combination of a lack of exercise and the wrong diet will eventually push the scales upwards. But in some cases a healthy lifestyle only helps to a limited extent against obesity.

Genes can make you fat

Among other things, genetic predisposition, hormonal disorders, medication and stress all influence weight. “There would also be overweight people if everyone were to exercise enough and eat healthily,” said Antje Gahl, qualified ecotrophologist and press spokeswoman for the German Nutrition Society (DGE).