Could my shortness of breath be related to my heart murmur?

A fellow caregiver asked...

I have a heart murmur that has gotten much worse over the years. My cardiologist said I need a new valve (mitral or aortic - I don't know which) within a few years. I am so short of breath if I walk as little as l/4 block. Is this related?

Expert Answer

Carolyn Strimike, N.P. and Margie Latrella, N.P. are cardiac nurse practitioners specializing in the prevention of heart disease and stroke. They have over 40 years of nursing experience in Cardiology between them. The main goal of their work is to counsel, motivate and empower women to adopt healthy lifestyle choices.

A heart murmur signifies a disruption of blood flow across one of the heart valves. Shortness of breath is a very common symptom of heart valve problems. There are medications you can take to help control the shortness of breath and you should discuss this with your heart doctor. The best way to monitor heart valve problems is with an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) which can tell your cardiologist how bad the heart problem is and how you are responding to the medications. Walking is one of the best exercises so you should try and walk, if you get short of breath stop and rest and then walk a little bit more.