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Empress emerita told to take it easy after doctors diagnose heart valve abnormalities

Kyodo, JIJI

Empress Emerita Michiko has been diagnosed with heart valve abnormalities, the Imperial Household Agency said Monday.

The 84-year-old former empress, who retired from official duties when Emperor Emeritus Akihito abdicated at the end of April, will have follow-up observations, with doctors calling for the burden on her heart in daily life to be reduced.

Abnormalities were found in the atrioventricular valves that normally function to prevent a reverse flow of blood in the heart, the agency said, adding that she will not receive any treatment for the condition for the time being.

She and her husband will visit the city of Kyoto for three days starting Tuesday as scheduled, the agency said.

It has been found that the valves do not close sufficiently but her symptoms are relatively mild, it said. She has also been diagnosed with having an irregular heartbeat.

The empress emerita underwent a heart exam Saturday after a blood test showed earlier this month a higher risk of heart failure.

Since the beginning of this year, she has experienced shortness of breath more frequently than before during her morning walks, according to the agency.

In 2015, she suffered from chest pains and had a computed tomography scan of her coronary arteries before being diagnosed with myocardial ischemia, a condition in which there is insufficient blood flow to some parts of the heart.

The agency also said that the empress emerita will undergo cataract surgery on Sunday and on June 23 at a hospital in Tokyo.

She has had eyesight problems for several years. Scheduling difficulties before the emperor emeritus’ April 30 abdication had prevented the surgery, according to the agency.