Aortic valve disease does its damage slowly


SADDLE, April 20, 2019 (HealthDay News) – Aortic valve stenosis is a form of heart valve disease that can take many years to become a life-threatening problem, says a specialist.

It occurs when the narrowing of the aortic valve opening prevents blood from the left ventricle of the heart from flowing into the aorta. It may also affect the pressure in the left atrium, said Dr. Mark Kozak, a cardiologist at Penn State Health.

"Not everyone will be at the same pace, but the valve worsens," he said in a press release on the health care system. "The only thing you can do is report symptoms and stay in touch with a cardiologist."

Shortness of breath, chest pain and fainting are the main indications of the disease, but may not start immediately.

"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, they tend to be very fast. Most people die within a few years if untreated and unmonitored."

The condition is more common among people 60 years of age or older.

"As our population is aging, there is a mini-epidemic of stenosis in our generation of more than 80 years," Kozak said.

Valve replacement is the only effective method for the treatment of severe aortic valve stenosis. In recent years, physicians have used a less invasive valve replacement procedure using a catheter based 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 people with aortic valve stenosis should exercise because it keeps them fit for surgeries and procedures they may require, as well as helping their doctors monitor the progression of their symptoms.

"People used to be afraid to exercise when they were diagnosed with aortic stenosis, but it's important how active you are and when the symptoms become noticeable," Kozak said.

"It is better for people to exercise and remain healthy than to restrict their physicality," he said. "As I monitor your progression, if I think a valve has reached a point of concern, it's time to replace it."

More information

The American Heart Association has more about aortic valve stenosis.

SOURCE: Penn State Health, press release, April 11, 2019

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