What Increases Your Risk?
Certain factors increase the risk of developing aortic stenosis. These include:
- Age: As people get older, calcium collects on the aortic valve because of years of wear and tear on the valve. Over time, the aortic valve leaflets become rigid and prevent the valve from opening fully.
- Heart risk factors: Calcium buildup on the aortic valve is also linked with other risk factors for heart disease, such as smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and kidney problems.
- Congenital heart defects: A normal aortic valve has three leaflets. Some people are born with a valve with two leaflets (bicuspid aortic valve). This type of valve can develop calcium buildup faster than the valve with three leaflets. Because of this, if you are born with a two-leaflet valve, you may develop aortic stenosis at an earlier age than those with a normal valve.
- Infection: If you have a history of rheumatic fever, you can have increased buildup of calcium along the edges of the aortic valve leaflets. If the calcium buildup increases, this can lead to narrowing of the aortic valve.
When Should You Call Your Doctor?
If you have aortic stenosis, you should call your doctor or seek medical attention when you experience:
- Chest pain
- Light headedness
- Swelling in the legs
- Difficulty lying flat at night to sleep
- Waking up in the middle of night gasping for air
- Hard time breathing
- Passing out or fainting
- Feeling like your heart is beating fast
Published: May 2018
Editorial Team Lead: Priya Kohli, MD, FACC
Medical Contributors: Jacob Dal-Bianco, MD, FACC; Karanvir S. Grewal, MD, FACC; Kameswari Maganti, MD, FACC; Sharon L. Mulvagh, M.D., FACC; Nishath Quader, MD, FACC