Perhaps you've heard the terms aortic stenosis, aortic valve stenosis or aorta stenosis. These terms all refer to the same serious heart condition that can progress if left untreated. It's important to understand the causes and risks of aortic stenosis, and perhaps more importantly, what treatment options exist.
Aortic stenosis is a heart condition where the thin leaflets of valve tissue that open and close when the heart beats become stiff. This makes your heart work harder to pump the necessary amount of blood through your body, which can affect your health. Aortic stenosis currently affects more than 2.5 million people over the age of 75 in the United States, and that number is expected to grow as more people live longer.1,2 It also is more common in men than women.3
The most important thing to know about aortic stenosis is: don't wait to seek treatment. If you think you may have severe aortic stenosis, or if your doctor has already diagnosed you, it's important to take action and get back to the activities you love.
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What Causes Aortic Stenosis?
There are four main causes of aortic stenosis:
- Calcium buildup on the valve leaflets can lead to stiffening and reduced flow of blood in the heart. This is the most common cause of aortic stenosis in elderly adults.
- Birth defects, including an aortic valve with one, two or four valve leaflets, can affect blood flow.
- Rheumatic fever can lead to scar tissue within the heart and reduce its ability to pump normally.
- Radiation therapy may lead to inflammation and scar tissue within the heart, preventing the aortic valve from functioning properly.
Risks of Aortic Stenosis
Aortic stenosis is a progressive disease, meaning that it generally gets worse over time. Sometimes the disease has progressed significantly before it is even discovered or diagnosed. This can result in "severe aortic stenosis," where the heart valve is struggling to open and close. That extra work can result in symptoms like shortness of breath and fatigue. Severe aortic stenosis can even make normal daily activities, like getting the mail or climbing stairs, difficult. Some may think of these symptoms as a normal part of getting older. But they mean your body lacks the oxygen it needs. That is why it is important to tell your doctor as soon as you think you have symptoms or your symptoms worsen.
After symptoms develop, up to 50% of people with severe aortic stenosis will die within an average of two years if they do not have their aortic valve replaced.4 That is a frightening statistic, but there is hope.
Aortic Stenosis Treatment Options
Taking the next step to find out about your treatment options may feel overwhelming, but it is important to talk to your doctor about the options available to you. While your doctor may recommend medication or balloon valvuloplasty (a procedure in which a balloon catheter is inserted through an artery into the heart to open the narrowed valve) to relieve the symptoms of aortic stenosis, the only effective way to treat severe aortic stenosis is by replacing your aortic valve.
Valve Replacement Options
There are two ways to replace your aortic valve:
- Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) is a less invasive option to replace a diseased aortic valve. The most common technique involves a small incision in the leg where a catheter is used to reach your heart and place a new valve within your diseased valve. TAVR may be an option depending on your risk for open heart surgery.
- Open Heart Surgery (surgical valve replacement) is an option for replacing your aortic valve where the surgeon will remove and replace your valve through an incision across the full length of your chest. This can sometimes be performed through smaller incisions.
There are risks associated with both TAVR and open heart surgery, which can include death, stroke and major bleeding. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options, the risks, and whether TAVR is right for you.
It's important to talk with your doctor about all of your treatment options to determine which is right for you. You can get a Free Aortic Stenosis Info Kit, designed to provide you with the information you need to be your best advocate, including information about aortic stenosis and treatment options, a Doctor Discussion Guide, and a list of nearby hospitals.
Taking Control of Your Aortic Stenosis
Make sure you know all your options. Request a Free Aortic Stenosis Info Kit, and discuss your options with your doctor today.
What can you do to ensure you're taking your heart health seriously?
- Ask your doctor to perform an echocardiogram and to listen to (auscultate) your heart. These are important tests to screen for aortic stenosis and other heart problems.
- Get informed about your options. You can request a Free Aortic Stenosis Info Kit, including additional information on aortic stenosis and treatment options, a Doctor Discussion Guide, and a list of nearby hospitals.
- Don't wait. If you have already been diagnosed with aortic stenosis, waiting to seek treatment is dangerous. Request your Free Info Kit, and take action today.