News Releases

News Releases

DHEC Recommends Healthy Lifestyle and Diet for Heart Valve Disease Prevention Day

Feb. 22, 2024

COLUMBIA, S.C. – February 22 is Heart Valve Disease Awareness Day, and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is reminding residents about ways to lower their risk for heart diseases, including acquired heart valve disease.  

The human heart has four valves, which act like gates, opening and closing to allow blood to flow into and out of the chambers of the heart. Valve disease can be congenital, when the valve does not develop normally before birth, or acquired. Acquired valve disease involves damage to one or more of the heart valves, causing abnormalities in blood flow, which if untreated can result in blood clots, heart failure, stroke, or even death. 

More than 11 million Americans have heart valve disease, with around 25,000 people dying from the disease annually. Each year during American Heart Month, Heart Valve Disease Awareness Day aims to inform people about disease risks and symptoms and improve detection and treatment.  

While many causes of heart valve disease cannot be prevented, the Alliance for Aging Research recommends living a heart healthy lifestyle, which can help prevent and control high blood pressure and other heart conditions that can lead to valve disease.  

“Some forms of heart valve disease are congenital, but there are actions people can take to minimize their risk factors for valve diseases that are acquired over time,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC’s Director of Health Promotion and Services and Chief Medical Officer. “While age and family history are factors that can’t be mitigated, a healthy diet and getting regular exercise can go a long way in helping you maintain a healthy heart – including healthy valves.” 

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommends the following foods as the foundation of a heart-healthy eating plan

  • Vegetables such as leafy greens (spinach, collard greens, kale, cabbage), broccoli, and carrots 
  • Fruits like apples, bananas, oranges, pears, grapes, and prunes 
  • Whole grains such as plain oatmeal, brown rice, and whole-grain bread or tortillas 
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy foods like milk, cheese, or yogurt 
  • Protein-rich foods including salmon, tuna, and trout, lean meats, eggs, nuts, seeds, soy products and legumes 

Visit DHEC’s Eating for Heart Health webpage for more information on healthy eating, including how to cook healthfully at home, how to read food labels and tips for eating healthily while dining out.  

As outlined in DHEC’s State of the Heart, half of adults in South Carolina do not get the recommended amount of physical activity. DHEC and its partners across the state have worked together to implement better education and lifestyle interventions as well as policy, systems and environmental changes to address nutrition, physical activity, and obesity prevention, all of which can help prevent heart disease.  

For more information on heart valve disease, visit  



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