Aortic valve stenosis is a form of heart valve disease that can take many years to develop into a life-threatening problem, an expert says.
It occurs when narrowing of the aortic valve opening prevents blood from the heart’s left ventricle from flowing to the aorta. It also can affect the pressure in the left atrium, explained Dr. Mark Kozak, a cardiologist at Penn State Health.
“Not everyone will be at the same pace, but the valve does worsen,” he said in a health system news release. “The only thing one can do is report symptoms and stay in contact with a cardiologist.”
Shortness of breath, chest pain and passing out are the main indications of the disease, but they might not begin right away.
“All three of these symptoms should not be taken lightly,” Kozak said. “People can do well over a long period of time, but once the symptoms develop, it tends to be pretty rapid. Most people die within a couple years if left untreated and unmonitored.”
The condition is most common among people 60 and older.
“Because our population is aging, there’s a mini-epidemic of stenosis in our 80-plus generation,” Kozak said.
Valve replacement is the only effective method for treating severe aortic valve stenosis. In recent years, doctors have been using a less invasive valve replacement procedure using a catheter-base technique called transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR).
With this type of procedure, most patients go home the next day and recovery takes about 72 hours, according to Kozak.
He said that people with aortic valve stenosis should exercise because it keeps them fit for surgeries and procedures they may require, and also helps their doctors monitor progression of their symptoms.
“People used to be afraid of exerting themselves when they were diagnosed with aortic stenosis, but it’s important how active you are and when symptoms become noticeable,” Kozak explained.
“It’s better to have people exercise and stay healthy, than restricting their physicality,” he said. “As I monitor their progression, if I think a valve has reached a point of concern, it’s time to replace it.”
The American Heart Association has more on aortic valve stenosis.