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

State Department photo by William Ng / Public domain

The Imperial Household Agency announced on Monday that the Empress Emerita Michiko of Japan has been diagnosed with heart valve abnormalities. She underwent a heart exam on Saturday after a blood test from earlier this month showed a higher risk of heart failure.

The former Empress, who is 84-years-old, retired from official duties alongside her husband Emperor Emeritus Akihito at the end of April. She will need to have follow-up appointments, and doctors have said that the Empress Emerita would need to reduce stress in her daily life to ease the burden on her heart.

The abnormalities were found in the atrioventricular valves that normally function to prevent a reverse flow of blood in the heart, according to the Imperial Household Agency. She will be not receiving treatment for the condition for the time being. The Empress Emerita’s symptoms are said to be relatively mild, but she was also diagnosed with having an irregular heartbeat. She experienced shortness of breath more frequently during her morning walks.

A scheduled three-day visit to the city of Kyoto with her husband will go ahead on Tuesday.

Empress Emerita Michiko was diagnosed with myocardial ischemia, a condition in which there is insufficient blood flow to some parts of the heart, in 2015 after she suffered chest pains. The Empress Emerita also suffered from cataracts and will undergo two surgeries in June. She has suffered from eyesight problems for years.

Empress Emerita Michiko is the wife of Emperor Emeritus Akihito of Japan. He abdicated in favour of his eldest son, now Emperor Naruhito, at the end of April. She was the first commoner to marry into the Japanese Imperial Family, and the couple have three children together, the current Emperor Naruhito, Crown Prince Fumihito, and Sayako Kuroda (former Sayako, Princess Nori). Her husband became the Emperor of Japan upon his father’s death in January 1989, and she became the Empress consort.