If you are eating healthy and hitting the gym, you’re doing important work toward preventing coronary heart disease, which is caused by plaque buildup in the arteries that can cause chest pain and even heart attack. Structural heart disease is a different problem. It’s a term commonly used to describe defects or disorders in the heart’s structure—its valves, for instance.
A heart problem that is structural may be congenital, meaning it was present at birth, or it can result from aging or underlying diseases causing wear and tear on the heart later in life.
The good news is that treatments for structural heart disease are improving. While open heart surgery may still be the best solution in some cases, minimally invasive catheter-based therapies have made care easier on patients, with fewer complications and quicker recoveries.
“This is a field that’s rapidly developing,” says John Forrest, MD, a cardiologist and director of the Yale Medicine Structural Heart Disease Program. “By providing patients with therapies they otherwise wouldn’t be able to access, we can help improve not only their survival but also their quality of life.”