The heart is made up of many parts and each of those parts is responsible for a critical function. One of those crucial parts is the aortic valve. The aortic valve is responsible for letting blood flow from the heart into the aorta, which is the artery that carries blood to the rest of the body. Unfortunately, a condition called aortic stenosis can affect how the aortic valve functions.
What is Aortic Stenosis?
Aortic stenosis (also known as aortic valve stenosis) is a condition in which the aortic valve in the heart becomes narrow. This reduces the blood flow from the heart into the aorta. It can also block the blood flow from the heart to the aorta.
When the blood flow from the heart and through the aorta is reduced, the heart must work harder to pump blood through the body. The extra work will eventually weaken the heart muscle and decrease the amount of blood the heart can pump.
Symptoms of Aortic Stenosis
People with aortic stenosis (AS) don’t always have symptoms until blood flow is severely restricted. If you or your loved one have symptoms of AS, it’s important to seek medical care because the condition is potentially serious.
When symptoms are noticeable, they may include:
- Chest pain
- Rapid heartbeat
- Fluttering heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Trouble breathing
- Trouble walking even short distances
- Swollen feet or ankles
- Trouble sleeping or needing to sleep sitting up
Causes & Risk Factors
Aortic valve stenosis can be caused by a few different factors. Some people are born with a type of heart defect that affects the aortic valve. This type of congenital AS is rare and may not cause problems until adulthood.
A more common cause of AS is calcium buildup on the aortic valve. Your blood contains calcium and as it repeatedly flows through the aortic valve as you age, calcium deposits can build up. Often, these deposits won’t cause problems until someone is in their 70s or 80s.
There are certain factors that put you at risk for developing aortic stenosis. These include:
- Old age
- Congenital heart disease
- History of infections that can affect the heart
- Chronic kidney disease
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
The symptoms of aortic valve stenosis can make patients feel weak and lethargic. They are unable to maintain the level of activity they did before their symptoms appeared. This leads to a lower quality of life.
Aside from the negative effect of symptoms, aortic stenosis can also cause further structural problems in the heart. The left ventricle of the heart must work harder to pump blood through the aorta, so the muscle may thicken. The thickened ventricle wall takes up more space in the lower heart chamber. This results in less room for the blood that the heart supplies to the body.
Complications of AS include:
- Heart failure
- Blood clots
- Infections that affect the heart
Aortic Stenosis Treatment
Treatment for aortic stenosis depends on the severity of the condition and how bad the symptoms are. People with no symptoms or mild symptoms may only need to have their condition monitored at regular followup appointments with their cardiologist. They may recommend some healthy lifestyle changes to help control symptoms and slow the progression of the condition.
In more severe cases of aortic valve stenosis, structural heart intervention may be necessary. Procedures used to treat AS include aortic valve repair, valvuloplasty, and valve replacement.
For More Information
If you have concerns about your heart or vascular health, contact Pulse: The Heart, Valve, and Vascular Institute. Dr. Farhan Majeed specializes in diagnosing and treating common cardiovascular conditions and offers valuable insight into how you can lower your risk of developing them. To schedule an appointment, call (941) 629-2111.