Mitral Valve Prolapse
Principal Proposed Natural Treatments:
Other Proposed Natural Treatments:
- 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan)
- CoQ 10
- Gamma-linolenic Acid
- Lemon Balm
- Lipoic Acid
- Multivitamin/Multimineral Supplements
- Vitamin B 1
- Vitamin E
Mitral valve prolapse (MVP) affects about 2% of people in the United States. 1 (Past estimates were higher due to errors in diagnosis.) As the name suggests, MVP involves prolapse of one of the valves of the heart, the mitral valve. The mitral valve sits at the opening between the left atrium and left ventricle, and opens and closes so that blood flows only in one direction (atrium to ventricle). In MVP, the mitral valve fails to make a proper snug fit, and instead billows (prolapses) back into the atrium, making a sound that can be heard through a stethoscope.MVP is generally benign. Sometimes, however, the mitral valve fits so poorly that a large amount of blood leaks back from the ventricle to the atrium. This is called “mitral regurgitation,” and it can be dangerous, eventually requiring surgery. In the past, a set of symptoms called dysautonomia was thought to frequently occur in association with MVP. Dysautonomia involves malfunction of the autonomic nervous system (the part of the nervous system that is not under conscious control). MVP plus dysautonomia used to be called the “Mitral Valve Prolapse Syndrome.” Symptoms were said to include:
- Chest pain with no apparent medical cause
- Panic attacks/anxiety
- Heart palpitations
- Balance problems
- Hypersensitive startle reflex
- Shortness of breath
- Numbness or tingling in the fingers or toes
- Sensitivity to caffeine and other stimulants
Principal Proposed Natural TreatmentsLow levels of magnesium can cause some symptoms similar to dysautonomia. One study evaluated 141 people with MVP and dysautonomia and found that 60% of them had low levels of magnesium in the blood. 2 This subgroup of people with low magnesium were then enrolled in a 10-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover trial . (They received placebo or magnesium supplements for 5 weeks, and then were “crossed over” to the other group.) People receiving magnesium experienced a significant reduction in dysautonomic symptoms, such as chest pain, palpitations, anxiety, and shortness of breath. Note that it is unlikely that these people suffered from magnesium deficiency. Magnesium deficiency is thought to be a rare condition. More likely, low magnesium levels are a consequence of some other factor that also causes dysautonomia symptoms. Regardless, magnesium supplementation could help treat such symptoms. However, more studies are necessary to validate this promising possibility. For more information, including dosage and safety issues, see the full magnesium article.
Other Proposed Natural TreatmentsVarious herbs and supplements that are hypothesized to help the heart in miscellaneous ways (such as treating congestive heart failure or preventing coronary artery disease) are often recommended for MVP as well, on general principles. These include arginine , CoQ 10 , creatine , hawthorn , L-carnitine , OPCs , taurine , vitamin B 1 , and vitamin E . However, there is no scientific reason to believe that any of these natural treatments would help MVP. A variety of other natural treatments are used to treat anxiety -related dysautonomia symptoms. These include the following:
- 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan)
- Lemon balm
- Multivitamin/multimineral supplements
Herbs and Supplements to Use Only with CautionNumerous herbs and supplements may interact adversely with drugs used to treat mitral valve prolapse. For more information on this potential risk, see the individual drug article in the drug interactions section of this database.
Freed LA, Levy D, Levine RA, et al. Prevalence and clinical outcome of mitral-valve prolapse. N Engl J Med . 1999;341:1–7.
Lichodziejewska B, Klos J, Rezler J, et al. Clinical symptoms of mitral valve prolapse are related to hypomagnesemia and attenuated by magnesium supplementation. Am J Cardiol . 1997;79:768–772.
- Reviewer: EBSCO CAM Review Board
- Review Date: 09/2014
- Update Date: 09/18/2014