Your heart works hard every second of the day, pumping the necessary amount of blood throughout your body. It has four valves that play an important role in that process, one of which is called the aortic heart valve.
The aortic valve has thin leaflets of tissue that open and close when the heart beats to regulate blood flow. Sometimes the leaflets of the aortic valve become stiff, which causes a narrowing of the aortic valve opening. This means the valve cannot fully open and close like it should. As a result, the opening becomes smaller, making it harder to pump blood which can affect your health. This condition is called aortic stenosis (also called aortic valve stenosis or aorta stenosis).1
This condition is called aortic stenosis (also called aortic valve stenosis or aorta stenosis). Aortic stenosis affects more than 2.5 mi0llion people over the age of 75 in the United States, and it’s expected to grow as more people get older.1,2 Aortic stenosis is more common in men than women.3
In most elderly adults, aortic stenosis is caused by a buildup of calcium (a mineral found in your blood) on the valve leaflets.2 Over time this causes the leaflets to become stiff, reducing their ability to fully open and close.
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 cause valve problems.
Sometimes strep throat can lead to rheumatic fever and 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.
Some people may develop inflammation and scar tissue after receiving radiation therapy. This can make the aortic valve stiff and unable to function properly.
Larry - Power of the Patient Voice
After being diagnosed with mild aortic stenosis and living years without symptoms, Larry’s condition began to worsen. Heart surgery wasn’t a good option for him, so he turned to transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) to repair his aortic valve. Follow Larry’s journey and how he got back to doing the things he loves.
Aortic stenosis is a progressive disease, which means it will get worse over time. Because of this, doctors will typically measure it as mild, moderate or severe aortic stenosis. The stage of aortic stenosis depends on how damaged your aortic valve is.
In the mild and moderate stages of aortic stenosis, the decrease in blood flow is usually not significant enough to cause outward symptoms.3 In fact, many people are unaware they have the condition or may be told they have a heart murmur during a routine checkup.
The American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association recommend that people with mild aortic stenosis get an echocardiogram every 3-5 years and people with moderate aortic stenosis get an echocardiogram every 1-2 years.5
As the leaflets become more damaged, the opening of the aortic valve becomes more narrowed and your heart muscle gets weaker. Once your aortic stenosis becomes severe, you may notice uncomfortable symptoms such as shortness of breath or fatigue (decreased energy). When this happens, it can be life-threatening, so it is important to tell your doctor as soon as you think you have symptoms or your symptoms worsen.5
U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division. June 2015.
Nkomo VT, Gardin JM, Skelton TN et al. Burden of valvular heart diseases; a population-based study. Lancet 2006;368:1005-11
2014 AHA/ACC Guideline for the Management of Patients With Valvular Heart Disease
“Aortic Valve Stenosis – Exams and Tests.” WebMD, www.webmd.com/heart-disease/tc/aortic-valve-stenosis-exams-and-tests
Lester SJ. Heilbron B, DodekA. Gin K, Jue J. The Natural History And Rate Of Progression Of Aortic Stenosis. CHEST. 1998:1 t3(4):11 09-tt 14.
Ramaraj R, Sorrell V. Degenerative aortic stenosis. BMJ 2008;336:550-5.