What Is Aortic Stenosis

Living life to the fullest is important. However, aortic stenosis can interrupt your golden years if it goes undetected or untreated. Don’t let aortic stenosis get in your way.

What is the aortic valve?

Your heart has four valves that play an important role in pumping the necessary amount of blood throughout your body. One of those valves is called the aortic valve. It has thin leaflets of tissue that open and close when the heart beats to regulate blood flow.

An aortic valve usually has three leaflets and is called a tricuspid aortic valve. But sometimes, an aortic valve has two leaflets, which is then called a bicuspid aortic valve.

How does aortic stenosis affect the aortic valve?

Over time, leaflets of the aortic valve may become stiff due to calcium buildup, which causes a narrowing of the aortic valve opening. This means the aortic 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. Aortic stenosis is also called aortic valve stenosis or aorta stenosis.

Healthy Aortic Valve
Diseased Aortic Valve

When the leaflets of your aortic valve don’t fully open, as with aortic valve stenosis, your heart must work harder to push blood to your body.

Aortic Stenosis Is a Progressive Disease


What is aortic stenosis?

Learn about the causes of aortic stenosis, its symptoms, and the available treatment options.

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What causes aortic stenosis?

There are four main causes of aortic stenosis.

Calcium buildup

In most elderly adults, aortic stenosis is caused by a buildup 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

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, they may cause valve problems, such as a leak.

Rheumatic fever

A strep throat infection can lead to rheumatic fever , which can cause scar tissue to form in the heart. When this happens, the aortic valve may not be able to open and close normally.

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.

Does aortic stenosis get worse over time?

Because aortic stenosis is a progressive disease, it will get worse over time. Doctors typically measure it as mild, moderate, or severe aortic stenosis. The stage of aortic stenosis depends on how damaged your aortic valve is. It is important to ask your doctor the stage of your aortic stenosis at each appointment.

Mild aortic stenosis Moderate aortic stenosis Severe aortic stenosis

Mild and moderate aortic stenosis

In the mild and moderate stages of aortic stenosis, the decrease in blood flow is usually not significant enough to cause outward symptoms. In fact, many people are unaware they have the condition or may be told they have a heart murmur during a routine check-up.

Ask your doctor for an echocardiogram —a non-invasive test that can tell you how well your heart valves are working. 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.1

Severe aortic stenosis

Severe aortic stenosis

Once aortic stenosis advances to the severe stage, it can be deadly. As the leaflets become more damaged, the opening of the aortic valve becomes more narrowed, and your heart muscle gets weaker. Uncomfortable symptoms such as shortness of breath and chest pain may become more noticeable and can become life-threatening. Patients sometimes confuse these symptoms with normal signs of aging. It is important to seek treatment right away. Don’t wait.

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Waiting isn’t an option with aortic stenosis

Aortic stenosis is an age-related disease that gets worse over time. When it is severe, it can be deadly. Don’t wait. Learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of severe aortic stenosis. Ask your doctor at every appointment about the right time for treatment.

Is it possible to manage aortic stenosis?

It is normal to feel that managing your aortic stenosis may be out of your control. However, it is not. Taking an active role in managing your disease is possible. Ways to take control of your aortic stenosis include:

  • Paying attention to your body for new or worsening symptoms
  • Being honest with yourself and your doctor about changes to your health
  • Attending regular doctor appointments
  • Asking about the right time for treatment at every appointment
Heart EKG

How is aortic stenosis diagnosed?

An echocardiogram (a non-invasive test that checks how well your heart valves are working) may be helpful in the diagnosis of aortic stenosis. But you shouldn’t rely solely on the test to monitor your heart health. Attending regular appointments with your doctor and communicating any changes in your daily routine, including new or worsening symptoms, is the best way to stay one step ahead of your aortic stenosis.

Patient Story

Patient Stories

Severe aortic stenosis, not age, was behind Larry's symptoms

After being diagnosed with mild aortic stenosis, and living years without symptoms, Larry's condition began to worsen. Follow Larry's journey.

Watch Larry’s story
Aortic Stenosis Informed Discussion Guide

Prioritize your heart health

Life can get busy. Between your daily activities and new pursuits, prioritizing heart health is important. Use this informed discussion guide to help you have productive conversations with your doctor, so you can stay in control of your aortic stenosis.

Talk with your doctor

1. Otto CM, Nishimura RA, Bonow RO, et al. 2020 ACC/AHA guideline for the management of patients with valvular heart disease: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Joint Committee on Clinical Practice Guidelines. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2021 Feb 2;77(4):e25-e197.