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Information from Your Family Doctor
Aortic Stenosis: What You Should Know
Am Fam Physician. 2008 Sep 15;78(6):725.See related article on aortic stenosis.
What is aortic stenosis?
It is the narrowing of the aortic valve. The aortic valve is a doorway-like opening in your heart that allows the blood to flow from your heart to other parts of your body. This narrowing (called stenosis) makes your heart work harder to pump blood. Aortic stenosis may get worse over time.
Who gets it?
It usually happens in people older than 65 years. However, some people have a birth defect in their aortic valve that makes them more likely to get it at an even younger age. You are more likely to get it if you smoke or have high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol.
How can I tell if I have it?
There are usually no symptoms until the narrowing becomes severe. You also may not notice the symptoms or may think they are caused by older age. You may have shortness of breath, chest pain, and dizziness or fainting, especially during physical activity.
Your doctor may listen to your heart to check whether it is beating normally. If it isn't, you will need a test called an echocardiogram (say: eh-koh-KAR-dee-uh-gram) to see what is causing the abnormal heartbeat (called a heart murmur). If you have aortic stenosis, ask your doctor if it is safe for you to exercise or do other physical activity.
How is it treated?
You may not need treatment if the aortic stenosis is not bad or if you don't have symptoms. But, your doctor will check your heart regularly to see whether the disease is getting worse. Once you have symptoms, you will need surgery to replace the valve.
What if I have symptoms?
Tell your doctor right away if you have any of the following symptoms:
Increased shortness of breath
Chest pain, pressure, or tightness
Dizziness or fainting
Fatigue or a decrease in normal activity
Sudden weight gain
Where can I get more information?
American Heart Association
Web site: http://www.americanheart.org
This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at http://familydoctor.org.
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.
Copyright © 2008 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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