Leeds great grandma raising awareness of deadly but treatable heart valve disease

A Leeds pensioner whose life has been transformed by surgery to repair a faulty heart valve is raising awareness of the condition.
Sandra LightowlerSandra Lightowler
Sandra Lightowler

Sandra Lightowler, 77, of Alwoodley was often tired and breathless and struggled to walk short distances before an operation in June to replace a faulty heart valve,

Now Mrs Lightowler said she feels 100 per cent better and is urging others with the same condition not to hesitate to have symptoms investigated.

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Great grandmother Mrs Lightowler said: "I will be 78 next month and I didn't think I would get there."

Sandra Lightowler pictured outside her home in Alwoodley.
Picture: Simon HulmeSandra Lightowler pictured outside her home in Alwoodley.
Picture: Simon Hulme
Sandra Lightowler pictured outside her home in Alwoodley. Picture: Simon Hulme

Mrs Lightowler spoke to the YEP during Heart Valve Disease Awareness Week.

Health chiefs say many older people remain unaware of the most common form of heart valve disease, a serious, but treatable condition.

More than half of patients with severe aortic stenosis - the most common form of heart valve disease - die within two years of developing symptoms, so early detection is important, through identifying symptoms and listening to the heart with a stethoscope.

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Mrs Lightowler started having episodes of breathlessness and fainting around a year ago and was diagnosed as having a heart murmur.

Tests revealed she would need a transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVI) to replace here faulty valve with an artificial one

She had the operation at Leeds General Infirmary in June and also had a heart pacemaker fitted.

Mrs Lightowler enjoyed her first trip out shopping to Leeds city centre this week for the first time since December.

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She said: "I feel 100 per cent better. I'm not panting for breath and I feel more myself.

"My heart murmur was detected by a GP using a stethoscope and I would urge other people my age with similar symptoms to ask for a stethoscope check at their next appointment”.

Leeds General Infirmary cardiologist Dr Daniel Blackman, said: “Heart valve disease increases substantially in frequency with advancing age, with potentially profound consequences if unrecognised and untreated.

"Since symptoms are often hidden at first, and their onset gradual, it is vital that older people in particular are aware of heart valve disease to help ensure early diagnosis and timely treatment.

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"It is estimated by the age of 75, the prevalence of heart valve disease is 13 per cent.

“More work needs to be done to increase awareness amongst both patients and doctors, and that is why this week, Heart Valve Disease Awareness Week, is a key step for improved patient outcomes."