There are no exercise restrictions for people with mitral valve prolapse. However, they should avoid the same unhealthy lifestyle practices that apply to everyone, including eating non-nutritious food, smoking, and excess alcohol consumption.

Mitral valve prolapse happens when the valve between the heart’s two left chambers does not close evenly. It is usually harmless, and most people are unaware they have it. Unless it worsens, a person can lead a very typical life.

If individuals also have high blood pressure, doctors may advise them to avoid medications that may elevate their blood pressure further. An example is the decongestant pseudoephedrine, which is present in some over-the-counter products that relieve common cold symptoms.

This article discusses what to avoid with mitral valve prolapse, including medications, food, habits, and exercise. It also examines how to maintain heart health and prevent complications.

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Things to avoid with mitral valve prolapse include:

  • unhealthy lifestyle practices such as smoking
  • excess alcohol consumption
  • non-nutritious foods
  • being sedentary or inactive

What is a mitral valve prolapse?

In mitral valve prolapse, the two valve flaps of the mitral valve do not close evenly. The mitral valve lies between the upper left chamber of the heart — called the atrium, and the lower left chamber of the heart — called the ventricle.

It opens to allow blood to flow from the left atrium to the left ventricle. Additionally, it closes to prevent the backward flow of blood from the left ventricle to the left atrium.

When the flaps of the valve do not close smoothly, the valve bulges upward into the atrium. In most cases, this is harmless, and people do not know they have it.

Although it rarely happens, mitral valve prolapse could become serious. It can lead to leakage in the valve — a condition called regurgitation — which can cause atypical heart rates, some of which are life threatening.

Learn more about mitral valve prolapse.

Medical News Today sought the expertise of Dr. Briana Costello, a cardiologist at The Texas Heart Institute.

She explains that doctors generally do not restrict medications for people with mitral valve prolapse who otherwise have typical heart function.

“That said, if they also have high blood pressure, doctors may instruct them to avoid medications that may elevate their blood pressure further,” says Dr. Costello. “Some examples are over-the-counter cold medications that contain the decongestant pseudoephedrine, as this constricts the arteries, which raises blood pressure. If someone has a prolapsing valve that leaks, this effect may cause it to leak more.”

Dr. Cheng-Han Chen, interventional cardiologist and medical director of the Structural Heart Program at Memorial Care Saddleback Medical Center in Laguna Hills, CA, discusses diet with Medical News Today.

“Dietary recommendations for people with the condition are no different than the heart-healthy diet we recommend for everyone,” says Dr. Chen. “This would include avoiding too much sodium, saturated fats, or sugar.”

A heart-healthy diet also involves:

  • a wide variety of fruits and vegetables
  • whole grains, such as brown rice instead of white rice
  • healthy protein foods from mostly plant sources, such as beans and nuts, as well as:
    • fish and seafood
    • low fat or nonfat dairy products
    • lean meat or poultry
  • liquid nontropical vegetable oils, such as olive oil
  • minimally processed foods

Costello also advises following the Mediterranean diet, as it falls into the category of a heart-healthy diet. This eating plan emphasizes plant foods, such as fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, but it also includes fatty fish, such as salmon, and some dairy foods.

Learn more about foods for heart health.

“Individuals with mitral valve prolapse should follow the same heart-healthy lifestyle practices that doctors recommend for everyone,” says Dr. Chen. He lists them below:

  • getting regular exercise rather than being sedentary
  • avoiding smoking, if applicable
  • limiting alcohol consumption
  • managing stress

Dr. Alexander Postalian, cardiologist at The Texas Heart Institute, told Medical News Today that there are no formal exercise limitations for those with mitral valve prolapse. “The same recommendations that exist for the general public apply here, which involve a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week,” he says.

“Individuals may divide the 150 minutes into several sessions. If they start to develop significant shortness of breath with activity, it is a sign to speak with their doctor. This symptom could mean worsening valve disease might be brewing.”

Other than the aforementioned healthy diet and regular exercise, there are no special recommendations for maximizing heart health in mitral valve prolapse, according to Dr. Postalian. “Establishing long-term regular follow-up with a cardiologist is a good idea,” he adds.

“Most individuals with the condition develop no major problems whatsoever,” says Dr. Postalian. “However, the valve can slowly deteriorate and necessitate surgery in some people, so it is very important for a person to pay attention to their body.”

“Worsening shortness of breath, new lower extremity swelling, or persistent rapid heart rate are all reasons for someone to have a conversation with their cardiologist sooner rather than later.”

Some individuals may wonder what to avoid if they have mitral valve prolapse. If they also have high blood pressure, they also need to avoid medications that can raise their blood pressure further. These drugs include the decongestant pseudoephedrine.

In this condition, the valve between the left atrium and left ventricle of the heart does not close evenly. Most people who have it live very typical lives.

There are no exercise restrictions, but doctors recommend the usual lifestyle practices of abstaining from smoking and limiting alcohol consumption.

To maximize heart health, doctors advise eating a heart-healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and consulting a cardiologist periodically.

In rare cases, mitral valve prolapse may worsen and cause serious heart difficulties. If a person develops symptoms, such as a persistently fast heart rate, they need to seek medical attention.