What You Don’t Know About Heart Disease Can Hurt You

Kevin Shortt, MD

Despite tremendous advances in caring for patients with heart disease, some conditions remain under-treated and under-diagnosed. Aortic stenosis, a narrowing of the aortic valve, is one of those conditions.

Aortic stenosis is a common valvular heart disease that increases in frequency as we age. Often unrelated to other heart diseases, it can lead to serious complications, even sudden death, if it remains untreated. Recent reports suggest that 75 percent of people with severe or critical aortic stenosis do not receive potentially life-saving treatment.

This is due to the lack of symptoms, symptoms that are not recognized, or the patient being evaluated as inappropriate for surgery.

“The threshold for treatment of aortic stenosis has shifted. We now know that if the condition has reached a point of critical narrowing, even in people without symptoms, treatment can help avoid additional damage to their heart,” said Kevin Shortt, MD, board-certified cardiothoracic surgeon at Bon Secours Heart and Vascular Institute.

Even someone who has maintained a healthy weight and diet or is without a family history of heart disease can develop aortic stenosis. Patients need to maintain a relationship with their primary care providers, explain all symptoms, and obtain an echocardiogram if they have a new or chronic heart murmur.

According to Dr. Shortt, who has specialized training in valvular heart surgery, it’s important to be a proactive patient. “If you have been diagnosed with a heart problem in the past, continue to see your cardiologist annually. The relationship is especially important to follow the progression of a condition or diagnose early any new problems that arise.

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