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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
What is aortic stenosis?
Aortic stenosis is a condition that makes your aortic valve become narrow and stiff. The narrow, stiff valve causes your heart to work harder to pump blood into the aorta.
What causes aortic stenosis?
- Calcium buildup can happen as you age. Calcium builds up on the aortic valve walls. The buildup stiffens and thickens the valve.
- Congenital heart defect means you were born with a heart problem. Over time, the problem may lead to narrowing or blocking of your aortic valve.
- Rheumatic fever can develop after you have a strep throat infection. Rheumatic fever causes your heart valves to thicken with scars.
What are the signs and symptoms of aortic stenosis?
- Chest pain or tightness
- Fast, jumpy, or fluttery heartbeat
- Shortness of breath during activity or when you lie down
- Severe tiredness
- Dizziness or feeling faint
How is aortic stenosis diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will ask about your signs and symptoms and listen to your heart. He or she will ask if you have had strep throat or rheumatic fever in the past. You may need any of the following tests:
- Blood tests: You may need blood taken to give healthcare providers information about how your body is working. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV.
- A chest x-ray shows the size of your heart. It may also show if fluid is around your heart and lungs.
- An EKG test records the electrical activity of your heart. It is used to check for abnormal heart rhythm caused by aortic stenosis.
- An echocardiogram is a type of ultrasound. Sound waves are used to show the structure and function of your heart.
- A stress test may show the changes that take place in your heart while it is under stress. Stress may be placed on your heart with exercise or medicine. Ask for more information about this test.
- Cardiac catheterization is a procedure done to find and treat heart blockages. A catheter (long thin tube) is inserted into your arm, neck, or groin and moved into your heart. An x-ray may be used to guide the tube to the right place. Contrast liquid may be put into your vein so the pictures show up better on a monitor. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid.
How is aortic stenosis treated?
- Valve replacement is the main treatment for aortic stenosis. It is a surgery to remove part or all of your aortic valve. A new valve is then secured in place. The new valve may be from a donor (another person or animal), or may be an artificial valve. There are 2 different approaches for valve replacement. It may be done as a open heart procedure. Your valve may also be replaced through a catheter placed through a vessel in your groin area. Your healthcare provider will talk to you about which approach is right for you.
- Balloon valvuloplasty helps widen your aortic valve and allow blood to flow through easier. It is also called a closed valvotomy. A catheter with a balloon on the tip is inserted through a small incision in your arm or groin. The catheter is guided through a blood vessel and into your left atrium near your aortic valve. When the balloon is inflated, it stretches the valve opening.
How can I manage my symptoms?
- Limit activities. Your healthcare provider may have you limit strenuous activity. Strenuous activity will make your heart work too hard. Ask your healthcare provider what activities are safe for you to do.
- Take your medicines as directed. You may need medicines to lower your blood pressure. You may also need medicine to help your heart's rhythm. Your healthcare provider will prescribe the medicine that is right for you.
How can I prevent aortic stenosis?
- Manage other health conditions. High blood pressure and high cholesterol levels increase your risk for aortic stenosis. Ask your healthcare providers for more information on managing these conditions.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight can increase your risk for high blood pressure and coronary artery disease. These conditions can make your symptoms worse. Ask your healthcare provider how much you should weigh. Ask him or her to help you create a weight loss plan if you are overweight.
- Eat heart healthy foods. Eat whole grains, fruits, and vegetables every day. Limit salt and high-fat foods. Ask your healthcare provider for more information on a heart healthy diet.
- Get treatment for strep throat. If strep throat is not treated, it can cause rheumatic fever.
- Take care of your teeth and gums. Gingivitis, a gum disease, increases your risk for aortic stenosis. See your dental provider regularly to treat problems early.
Call 911 or have someone else call if:
- You have any of the following signs of a heart attack:
- Squeezing, pressure, or pain in your chest
- and any of the following:
- Discomfort or pain in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or arm
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea or vomiting
- Lightheadedness or a sudden cold sweat
- You have any of the following signs of a stroke:
- Numbness or drooping on one side of your face
- Weakness in an arm or leg
- Confusion or difficulty speaking
- Dizziness, a severe headache, or vision loss
When should I seek immediate care?
- You have chest pain when you move around. It goes away when you are still.
- You have increasing shortness of breath.
- You faint.
When should I contact my healthcare provider?
- The veins in your neck look swollen or are bulging.
- You have increased swelling in your legs or ankles.
- Your heart beats faster than usual.
- You feel your heart flutter often.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
Care AgreementYou have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
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