Posted on July 31, 2019
Aortic stenosis is arguably the most common and dangerous conditions that involve the heart valves. In India alone, its prevalence rate is estimated to be approximately 2.8 per cent and is said to affect over 35 per cent of the population older than 65 years. Despite the high prevalence rate of this disease, it is said that most people don’t know how to recognize its signs and symptoms when they arise. To help you better understand this disease and keep you better prepared, here is what you should know about Aortic Stenosis.
This condition is characterized by the narrowing of the aortic valve which is the opening in your heart that allows blood from the heart to flow to other parts of your body. The aortic valve is the valve that controls the flow of blood to the rest of the body. For this valve to work effectively, it has to open wide and close tight. However, when this opening narrows in a process referred to as stenosis, the heart is forced to work extra harder for it to pump blood. This results from shrinking in size of the valve mainly due to the build-up of calcium.
Usually, when you have a narrowed aortic valve, the left side of your heart is forced to work harder for it to force blood out of the heart to the body. To accommodate this hard work, this side of the heart tends to grow bigger. This can, in the long run, lead to left ventricular hypertrophy which is a very dangerous type of enlargement. Eventually, the heart becomes weaker and weaker and a heart failure follows when too little oxygen-rich blood is supplied to the body. This condition usually gets worse over time.
Aortic stenosis usually happens mostly in those people who are older than 65 years. However, those people who have a problem with their aortic valve are more likely to get it in their early stages of life. People who smoke or have diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol are also more likely to get it.
Aortic stenosis usually has no symptoms until the narrowing of the aortic valve becomes severe. However, just like any other heart-related problems, you may experience running short of breath, dizziness, fainting, or chest pain especially when you engage in physical activity.
In most cases, a patient may not need to be treated if he or she has no symptoms or if the condition is not bad. However, if you have the symptoms then immediate medical attention is necessary being that 50 per cent of the patients in India who don’t get treatment do not survive up to two years.
Your doctor will first check your body for any signs or symptoms of aortic stenosis. You will also be asked whether you have ever had a rheumatic fever or strep throat in the past. The diagnosis will also involve monitoring your heart using a Holter monitor to check out whether it is beating normally. He or she may also propose you to consider remote cardiac monitoring which will allow him or her to continue monitoring your heart activity and all your heart events even when you are at the horn. The ECG monitoring service may take up to 14 days.
If after the monitoring test you discover that it is not beating normally, you will need to undergo a test that is known as an echo-cardiogram to determine whatever is causing this abnormal heartbeat. You may also be needed by your doctor to undergo any of the following tests:
Blood tests: Your blood may be taken from your hand or arm and given to healthcare providers to give information about how your body is currently working.
A chest x-ray: This will show the actual current size of your heart. The test will also show whether there is any fluid around your lungs and heart.
An echo-cardiogram: This will be used to show the structural components and the functioning of your heart.
A stress test: This test will be used to see if there are any changes that have taken place in your heart due to stress. The stress may be due to medication or exercise.
Cardiac catheterization: This is a procedure that is done to check for any heart blockages and treat them. The catheter will be inserted into your neck, groin, or arm then moved into your heart.
The main treatment for aortic stenosis is valve replacement, a surgery that involves the removal of part or whole of the aortic valve. After the removal, a new valve will be then secured into that place. This may either be a valve from a person or animal or just an artificial valve. When it comes to valve placement, two different approaches can be used It may either be done as an open heart procedure or be replaced through a catheter that will be placed through a vessel found in the groin area.
The choice of the placement approach will depend on many factors and your healthcare provider will determine the one that is right for you.
For you to prevent aortic stenosis, you have to manage other health conditions that are known to increase your chances of developing this condition. These health conditions are high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Some of the ways your healthcare provider will advise you to use in managing these conditions are,
Maintain a healthy weight: When you are overweight, you have very high chances of developing high blood pressure and coronary artery disease
Eating heart-healthy foods: You should eat foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. You should also limit your intake of salt and foods that have high-fat content
Getting treatment for strep throat: When this condition is not treated early enough, it can easily lead to rheumatic fever
Taking good care of your teeth and gums: Having gum disease and gingivitis can also increase your chances of developing aortic stenosis.