How do you take care of your heart after 40?
As you find yourself hitting 40, you may start thinking about health issues you previously didn’t concern yourself with. Should heart health be one of them?
The aortic valve is the final “door” the blood goes through as it leaves the heart’s left ventricle (main pump) en route to the aorta (main artery bringing blood throughout the body). When aortic valve stenosis is present, the aortic valve becomes very narrow and does not open properly. The left ventricle must then work harder than normal to pump blood throughout the body.
If you have aortic stenosis, replacing the diseased aortic valve is the best option. Aortic stenosis is not curable with medical therapy alone. If untreated, aortic stenosis can cause the left ventricle to weaken and fluid to back up in the lungs causing congestive heart failure. Most patients recover well after having an aortic valve replacement.
Congenital aortic stenosis is a congenital heart defect involving the aortic valve (e.g., instead of having the normal three flaps, the valve only has one or two) that results in an incomplete opening of the valve, making it more difficult for the heart to pump blood to the body. Management depends on age at diagnosis, severity of the obstruction and symptoms. In children, treatment may include balloon or surgical valvotomy.
Aortic valve stenosis is most commonly caused by aging processes. Over time, as the blood is ejected forcefully by the left ventricle into the aorta, the thin leaflets (doors) of the aortic valve can get damaged. When the leaflets are damaged, scarring occurs and calcium deposits on the leaflets restrict their movement and cause narrowing of the valve opening.
Aortic valve stenosis can also be caused by congenital heart defects, including deformities such as bicuspid aortic valve. In this condition, the valve has two flaps rather than the normal three.
Symptoms can include:
Often, heart valve disease is diagnosed when a physician hears abnormal sounds (heart murmur) through a stethoscope. Diagnostic tests to specify the valve disease include:
A procedure to repair or to replace the defective valve with an artificial valve may be necessary. There are currently two procedures that replace defective aortic valves: surgical aortic valve replacement and transcatheter aortic valve replacement. Early aortic valve replacement usually improves symptoms and can help prevent damage to the heart that can occur if the stenosis is not treated.
Balloon valvuloplasty is another, less invasive procedure that may be appropriate for aortic valve stenosis when surgery is not an option.
Some people who have aortic valve regurgitation or stenosis have few or no symptoms, but if you’re diagnosed with these conditions, you should be monitored by your physician. Medication may be necessary to treat the symptoms at a certain point.
Minimally invasive treatment for severe aortic stenosis
This video shows how the Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) procedure is performed.