Your heart has four valves that play an important role in directing blood flow through the heart, lungs and to your body. One of the valves is called the aortic valve which is made up of thin leaflets of tissue that open and close. This is the final valve where blood exits the heart into the aorta (main blood vessel of the body)
Over time, leaflets of the aortic valve may become stiff, which causes a narrowing (stenosis) of the aortic valve opening. This means the valve cannot fully open and close like it should. As the opening becomes smaller, it makes it harder for the heart to pump blood, which can affect your health. This condition is known as aortic valve stenosis.
There are 4 Main Causes of Aortic Stenosis
Calcium Build-up - most common In most elderly adults, aortic stenosis is caused by a build-up of calcium (a mineral found in your blood) on the valve leaflets. Over time, this causes the leaflets to become stiff, reducing their ability to fully open and close.
Birth Defects - affects people at a younger age 55-65 year old A normal aortic valve contains three leaflets. But sometimes people are born with an aortic valve that has one, two, or four leaflets. When defects are present, the aortic valve may leak and this can cause valve problems.
Rheumatic Fever - less common with treatment of strep bacteria Sometimes strep throat can lead to rheumatic fever which can cause scar tissue to form within the heart. When this happens, the aortic valve may not be able to open and close as it normally should.
Radiation Therapy Some people may develop inflammation and scar tissue after receiving radiation therapy. This can make the aortic valve stiff and unable to function properly.
DIAGNOSIS - Typically the first signs of a valve problem is noted when your healthcare provider listens to your heart and notices a murmur. A murmur is the sound of turbulent blood flow resulting from a heart valve which is either not opening normally (stenosis) or not closing normally leading to back leak of blood (regurgitation). A simple test called an echocardiogram or ultrasound of the heart can be used to evaluate the degree or cause of the murmur.
AORTIC STENOSIS BECOMES MORE COMMON AS WE AGE
Aortic stenosis is a common condition—affecting about 1 out of 8 people over the age of 75. Aortic stenosis is a progressive disease that affects up to 2.5 million people over the age of 75 in the United States.
SYMPTOMS OF SEVERE AORTIC STENOSIS - the symptoms of aortic stenosis are progressive over time and may be confused with changes of aging. Studies have shown that while many patients initially report no symptoms, after closer examination, 32% do have symptoms.
Shortness of breath
Chest pain - particularly with physical activities
Fatigue (low energy) - a noticeable change over the past few months
Lightheadedness, dizziness, and/or fainting - particularly when quickly standing
Difficulty walking short distances
Swollen ankles and feet
Rapid or irregular heartbeat
It is very important to report these symptoms to your healthcare provider, particularly if you have a murmur or known valve disease as Aortic stenosis is a fatal disease if left untreated.
After the onset of symptoms, patients with severe aortic stenosis have a survival rate as low as 50% at 2 years and 20% at 5 years without aortic valve replacement.
Delaying treatment is a serious problem for many with severe aortic stenosis. Many patients with severe aortic stenosis do not receive necessary treatment. In fact, at least 40% (and perhaps up to 60%) of patients with severe aortic stenosis do not receive valve replacement.
TREATMENT OPTION - No More Watching. No More Waiting. Get Severe Aortic Stenosis Treatment Now.
Today, there are 2 very good options for patients with symptomatic severe aortic valve stenosis. Both are good options and you should discuss these options with your healthcare provides to see which is best for you.
1) SAVR - Surgical Aortic Valve Replacement
2) TAVR - Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement