What Is Mitral Valve Prolapse (MVP)?

Mitral valve prolapse (MVP) is also known as click-murmur syndrome (it causes a characteristic heart murmur that may be heard through a stethoscope), Barlow's syndrome, dysautonomia, balloon mitral valve and floppy valve syndrome. The mitral valve is the heart valve between the left atrium and left ventricle . It has two flaps, or cusps. The opening in the valve may be narrower than normal (mitral stenosis) or wider than normal (mitral incompetence).

Researchers from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's (NHLBI) Framingham Heart Study report that MVP is substantially less common and less serious than previously believed. In a study appearing in the July 1, 1999 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, the researchers report that MVP affects about 2 percent of the population rather than the 5 to 35 percent of the population indicated in earlier estimates. And, contradicting earlier studies suggesting that MVP occurs more commonly in women, the researchers found that men and women are equally likely to have the condition.

When a person's mitral valve is somewhat looser than normal, it may allow one of the portions of the valve to "billow" backward slightly into the upper chamber during the heart's contraction (prolapse). Occasionally, there may be a small leak of blood backwards into the upper chamber of the heart. The heart still pumps and receives an adequate blood supply. Prolapsing mitral valves do not tend to degenerate over time. Mitral valve prolapse sometimes accompanies the rare Marfan syndrome.

Symptoms often occur following a major stressor such as childbirth, severe viral illness or an emotional stressor such as change in marital status, job pressure, etc. Symptoms may vary from very mild to rather severe and may change considerably over time. Most patients have no symptoms but those who do may experience chest pain, palpitations, fatigue, dizziness, anxiety, lightheadedness when getting up from a chair or bed and palpitations.

Irregular Heartbeat: Palpitations may also be due to the increased awareness of normal heart beats common in MVP. The common experience of "palpitations" upon lying down at night, particularly when lying on the left side, is almost always due to MVP.

Tachycardia: A sudden speeding up of both the heart rate or the pulse along with a feeling of "pounding" is frequently felt by patients with MVP.

Panic Attack: A very distressing MVP symptom is the panic attack. This is a sudden feeling of intense anxiety or impending doom for no apparent reason. These attacks may be fleeting or mild or at times very severe and disabling.

It is very important that everyone receive a nutritionally complete, well balanced diet, especially individuals with mitral valve prolapse. MVP patients often tend to have very low energy levels, and inadequate diets can further aggravate this problem. It is recommended that patients totally eliminate caffeine from their diet. Caffeine is a drug, a stimulant. It tends to stimulate the autonomic nervous system and produce an unstable state which can further aggravate fatigue. The second major recommendation for MVP patients is the reduction of sugar in the diet. Although sugar is frequently used by patients for energy, many people are truly addicted to it, especially sugar in chocolate. A surge in blood sugar stimulates the autonomic nervous system. It is recommended that MVP patients have a mid-afternoon high protein snack such as cheese or peanut butter crackers.

Fad and crash diets are not a good idea. IF you feel you would like to lose weight, talk with your physician, set a goal, and work out a plan. "Diet pills" are an absolute "no-no." They are guaranteed to make MVP worse.

Symptoms of MVP will clear more quickly in patients who exercise regularly. Exercise should be of an aerobic type.

Medication may be required to completely clear symptoms related to mitral valve prolapse. It is important to take the medication as directed. It generally takes two or more weeks before you notice any change in MVP symptoms. DO not stop or change your dose of medication without checking with your physician.

Following a number of adverse reports, including death, the Food and Drug Administration has convened panels to evaluate a number of products containing ephedrine, a powerful stimulant extracted from a Chinese herb variously called ma huang or ephedra.

In China, the Ephedra sinica plant has been used for more than 5,000 years as a medicinal agent to treat hay fever and asthma. The plant contains both ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, which can cause vasoconstriction, cardiac stimulation, and their attendant increases in blood pressure and heart rate. Nervousness, insomnia, vertigo, and headaches are also common effects. Herbs, vitamins, and minerals are classified as dietary supplements. In contrast to regulations for synthetic drugs, manufacturers are not required to prove that dietary supplements are effective or safe. The FDA has now compiled over 800 reports of adverse reactions to ephedra-based products, including strokes, arrhythmias, elevated blood pressure, and the precipitation of acute myocardial infarctions.

Discuss It!

dimethylxanthine ·

Thanks for a well-written and comprehensive article. I've been diagnosed with mild MVP a few years ago, but never noticed any symptoms until a few days ago. This coincides with me starting on a regimen of quite strenuous excercise (timed cross-country biking 30km every other day as well as swimming). Not sure if this could trigger the symptoms, but for the last couple of days I have been noticing stronger than usual heartbeats, accompanied by arrhythmias, especially towards the close of day and when lying down. I'll be getting ECG done this week, but stopping coffee (to which I literally got addicted, after almost-exclusively being a tea person). I wonder if ADD medication should be taken off the list as well... Thanks again for the article.

Baltimorejay ·

I have been diagnosed with MVP accompanied by trivial or no leakage. I have only known about this for about a year, but I have had Premature Ventricular Contractions (PVCs) since my mid 30s (I am now 39). I have had some days where I have 1,000s of PVCs but usually I only get <20 a day. Until last year they were sporatic and would come and go. For the last year I have felt them every day. I don't know if this is related to my MVP. I take a small dose of metoprolol that is supposed to help them. I have also modified my diet by removing all caffiene and alcohol and limiting sugar. i try to exercise regularly, but get discouraged when i feel PVCs. I would just like for them to stop.

AustinC ·

I pretty much have the same profile as BaltimoreJay. A year ago, the palpitations went away for a summer but returned with a cold. It's been difficult to attribute causes and effects. I'm still trying to find way to mitigate them.


hey i m to a mvp patient but people u only need to be happy n lead stress less life wid yoga and try to be 100% vegeterian in your diet n dont take any step without informing your diet.stay safe be happy

Louisville ·

Mvp is so scary.. As if no one will know what you felt during attacks. Im a little bit better now from but, till now cant get it out of my mind.

John Davis ·

The panic attack with tunnel vision is a real and insanely scary thing. Glad that I can attribute this to MVP. Now working on diet and exercise.