Aortic stenosis, also known as aortic valve stenosis, is the narrowing of the aortic valve. When the valve narrows, blood flow is limited. The body still needs the same amount of blood; therefore, the heart must work harder and pump more blood. The persistent overwork of the heart makes it weaker. As you age, you become more susceptible to aortic stenosis. If you are experiencing symptoms of fatigue and shortness of breath, you may have aortic stenosis. The good news is treatment is available.
Aortic stenosis does not typically occur until about age 60. In young people, it is a result of a birth defect. There are about 200,000 cases diagnosed yearly. It is not an extremely common problem but it is serious. Aortic stenosis is a result of calcium damage or scarring in the valve. The aortic valve sits right above the heart. It receives blood from the heart and sends it throughout the aorta. The aorta carries oxygenated blood throughout the body. It has four sections which are necessary for getting blood to the top of the head as well as down to the legs. When the aortic valve narrows, not as much blood can flow into the aorta which results in a lack of blood to the rest of the body.
The heart is extremely important for blood flow and oxygen flow. If the heart does not operate properly, the whole body suffers. When the aortic valve is narrow, the body does not automatically need less blood; it still needs just as much. This leads to the heart working overtime to get the body the blood and oxygen it needs. When your heart is healthy, it does not have to work as hard to get. The constant overwork of the heart will begin to weaken the heart. The heart is a muscle, and if it is not taken care of properly, it will lose its function. Take for instance the bicep muscle. If you do not use it, it will start to wear away. If you overuse it, it will become damaged. The same goes for the heart. When the heart weakens, it cannot pump the right amount of blood to the body like it could formerly.
Aortic stenosis has many symptoms. One symptom is chest pain or chest tightness. The narrowing of the valve may make your chest feel tight. You may also have shortness of breath. Blood carries oxygen, and when oxygen cannot flow properly, you lose your breath quicker than normal. Doing even minor task may cause you to get out of breath. Exercise is nearly impossible. When you exercise, your body requires more oxygen, and your heart must pump harder. You will feel overexerted much quicker than normal. Fatigue is very common. Lack of oxygen leads to tiredness. Heart palpitations is another symptom. Heart palpitations are the feeling of your heart beating too fast or too slow. It last for only a moment then returns to a regular beat. You may also have fainting spells.
If aortic stenosis is not treated, you may end up with heart failure. Aortic stenosis is not always diagnosed right away. Most of the time it is diagnosed after a routine check up. During your check-up, your doctor always listens to your heart. An irregular heartbeat leads to concern, especially if you are 60 and older. At this point, an echocardiogram may be ordered. An echocardiogram is an ultrasound of the heart. It allows a physician to see the valve and also get a measure of how hard the heart is working. As you get older, you naturally get tired quicker than when you were younger. You may not even notice any changes in yourself. If your family notices major changes, you should listen to them and see a physician. Aortic stenosis can be treated and not cause any long term effects if it is detected early. It may even be cured.
In mild cases, aortic stenosis does not need treatment at all but does require monitoring. If the heart is not being overworked or the muscles of the heart are not becoming thicker, surgery is not necessary. In more severe cases the aortic valve will have to be either replaced or repaired. This procedure requires surgery. If a surgeon determines that you need surgery, it is something you should do right away. You do not want to put it off and cause even more damage to your heart. Through surgery, your problems may be totally resolved.
Aortic stenosis is not always diagnosed right away because it does not always have visible symptoms. Many people do not feel symptoms until damage has already been done. The important thing is to protect your heart. If aortic stenosis is not treated, the heart will begin to fail due to constant overwork. Having a healthy heart allows you to live a strong long life. Aging does not mean you have to become sluggish and no longer active. As you age, stay up on your health, especially your heart health. If you take care of your heart now, it will thank you later.
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