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How Can Heart Valve Disease Be Prevented?

To prevent heart valve disease caused by rheumatic fever, see your doctor if you have signs of a strep infection. These signs include a painful sore throat, fever, and white spots on your tonsils.

If you do have a strep infection, be sure to take all medicines prescribed to treat it. Prompt treatment of strep infections can prevent rheumatic fever, which damages the heart valves.

It's possible that exercise, a healthy diet, and medicines that lower cholesterol might prevent aortic stenosis (thickening and stiffening of the aortic valve). Researchers continue to study this possibility.

A healthy diet, physical activity, other lifestyle changes, and medicines aimed at preventing a heart attack, high blood pressure, or heart failure also may help prevent heart valve disease.

If you've had previous heart valve disease and now have a man-made valve, you're at risk for a heart infection called infective endocarditis (IE).

One of the most common causes of IE is poor dental hygiene. Thus, to prevent this serious infection, floss and brush your teeth and regularly see a dentist. Gum infections and tooth decay can increase the risk of IE.

Let your doctors and dentists know if you have a man-made valve or if you've had IE before. They may give you antibiotics before dental procedures (such as dental cleanings) that could allow bacteria to enter your bloodstream. Talk to your doctor about whether you need to take antibiotics before such procedures.

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November 16, 2011