Heart valve disease is when one or more of the valves in your heart doesn’t work properly. Sometimes it can requires surgery to repair or replace it.

Your heart has four valves that keep blood flowing in the correct direction. Each valve opens and closes once during each heartbeat. But if they don’t open or close properly, it can disrupt the blood flow in your body.

“Blood is supposed to go through, and then the valve is supposed to close to prevent it from going backwards,” said cardiovascular surgeon Aaron Trachte. “So you can have problems with either, or both. You can have a valve that doesn’t open. You can have a valve that leaks, and you can have one that’s just stuck and leaks both ways.”

When this happens, Doctors like Cardiovascular surgeon Aaron Trachte will do either a valve repair or replacement.

“What we do depends on how bad the valve is and whether we can salvage what’s already there,” said Dr. Trachte. “Or if we just have to cut it out and start over.”

There are several risk factors, but Dr. Trachte says the biggest one is age.

“Valves can be born abnormal and people will last with them for years and then they’ll wear out in their forties, fifties, sixties or later,” said Dr. Trachte. “But lots of times it’s just we see older patients where the valve is shot, worn out, calcified, or torn.”

The symptoms vary depending on which valve is affected, as what condition it’s in. Dr. Trachte says valve disease is completely different than the other cardiovascular diseases.

“There are always things we tell people,” said Dr. Trachte. “Don’t smoke, be more active, watch your diet and watch your weight. But when it comes to valve disease, once your valves go bad, there isn’t some behavior you can do to affect it or make it less bad.”

If you have a heart murmur as an adult, Dr. Trachte says you should visit a cardiologist.