Understanding Heart Valve Disease

Although life can get busy, it is important to pay attention to changes in your daily activities. Difficulty walking short distances or climbing stairs may not be due to age. These changes may be signs and symptoms of an underlying condition, such as heart valve disease—a condition in which the heart valves do not work the way they should. That's why it is important to pay attention to changes in your heart health and tell your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms such as lack of energy or notice changes in your daily activity.

What is heart valve disease?

As you get older, you can develop heart valve disease, where one or more of your heart valves may stop working as well. This makes it harder for your heart to pump blood through your body.

What causes heart valve disease?

There is no one cause of heart valve disease, but there are a variety of risk factors. Some common risk factors include:

  • Older age (people 65 and older are at higher risk)
  • Having a family history of heart disease or heart valve disease
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol

Who is at risk for heart valve disease?

Heart valve disease affects more than 5 million people in the U.S., with roughly 25,000 deaths each year. Although it's more common in older adults, heart valve disease can happen at any age. If you don't do anything about it, heart valve disease can get worse and even lead to death.

What is the most common type of heart valve disease?

Aortic stenosis is the most common type of heart valve disease, affecting millions of people in the U.S. It is especially common in people 65 and older and affects 1 in 8 people over 75.1 This type of valve disease means your aortic valve cannot fully open or close like it should. Over time, it can become life-threatening if left untreated. That is why it is important to talk to your doctor at every appointment about the right time for treatment.

Aortic stenosis affects about 1 out of 8 people
Aortic stenosis is a common
condition—affecting about

1 out of 8 people
over the age of 75.1
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1. Osnabrugge, Ruben L.J., et al. Aortic Stenosis in the Elderly. Disease Prevalence and Number Candidates for Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement: A Meta-Analysis and Modeling Study. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2013;62:1002-1012.