As we close out American Heart Month this February, be sure to make time to identify your risk factors for heart disease – they can be different for women and men. Take steps to prevent heart disease and, if needed, see your physician to begin treatment early. You can start with these heart-healthy tips: eat healthy, be active, sleep well, know your numbers, and quit tobacco.
Heart disease is the number one cause of death for women in the United States, and valvular heart disease is diagnosed in roughly 2.5 percent of Americans. This awareness month marks a timely occasion to learn about one of the most common types of heart valve disease: Aortic stenosis.
“Aortic stenosis is the narrowing of the valve that lets blood flow from your heart to the rest of your body. It commonly occurs as we get older,” said Dr. Howard Broder, Intermountain medical director of cardiology.
What causes aortic stenosis?
While it is believed that the cholesterol particle called lipoprotein(a) causes aortic stenosis, the most common cause is age. Most people in their 70s develop aortic stenosis, making it the most common valvular heart disease. Other risk factors include being born with two heart valve leaflets instead of three.
What are some symptoms of aortic stenosis?
Feeling fatigued is one symptom of aortic stenosis, along with the development of shortness of breath or chest discomfort, and possibly even fainting. Often, people with aortic stenosis may not notice anything different with their health. Aortic stenosis gradually develops, however, and so will its effects. A visit to your primary care provider can help determine if one has aortic stenosis.
“If someone is concerned about how they are feeling, they should see their primary care doctor, as aortic stenosis can oftentimes be identified with a noticeable murmur on physical examination,” Dr. Broder said.
What are the options if surgery is needed?
Open-heart surgery is one way to replace the valve, but new treatments have been developed including
Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement, or TAVR. “(TAVR) allows us to put in a new valve without opening the patient’s chest,” Dr. Broder said. “It gives the same benefits as open heart surgery with reduced recovery and risk.”
TAVR is a minimally invasive procedure to replace the aortic valve in patients with severe aortic stenosis. TAVR is less invasive and offers quicker recovery time than traditional open-heart surgery. The entire procedure typically takes less than one hour.
“When we identify someone with aortic stenosis, we do a thorough evaluation to determine which is the best approach for that particular patient,” Dr. Broder said. “That way we can optimize the approach and the device to maximize the benefits and reduce the risk for each person we treat.”
*This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice or diagnosis from a physician or qualified healthcare professional.