(BPT) - More than five million Americans are impacted by heart valve disease each year. Of those, 1.5 million suffer from aortic stenosis, which occurs when the aortic valve does not open properly and affects how oxygen-rich blood leaves the heart with each beat. This increases pressure within the heart and causes it to weaken.

Aortic stenosis (AS) is one of the most common and serious valve disease problems that can impact individuals of all ages, affecting health and limiting daily activities. (American Heart Association)

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with symptomatic severe AS or you’re wondering if it could be an issue for you or a loved one, here are five questions to consider:

1. What are the symptoms of severe aortic stenosis?

Symptoms of AS include, but may not be limited to:

  • Chest pain
  • Feeling dizzy or light-headed
  • Difficulty walking short distances
  • Trouble breathing or feeling out of breath
  • Rapid, fluttering heartbeat

Each of these symptoms is a sign of the progression of this heart valve disease and should not be ignored. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor right away. Many of these symptoms may be associated with other heart conditions.

2. What can I do to find the right treatment option for me?

Nearly half of heart valve patients (49 percent) from a recent Heart-Valve-Surgery.com survey reported a quick return to active living as a key factor in their treatment decision. By taking charge of your health and learning more about aortic stenosis, you’re already on the right track.

In the survey, most (90 percent) heart valve patients were influenced by conversations with their doctor when making a treatment decision. This was more than any other factor, including conducting their own online research (55 percent) and conversations with family or friends (28 percent). To find the right treatment option, talk with your doctor. Start a conversation around what treatments are available and learn which options are right for you to help you get back to your favorite activities sooner rather than later.

3. Am I a candidate for a less invasive procedure?

In addition to traditional surgical aortic valve replacement (SAVR), you may want to ask if you could be a candidate for a less invasive treatment option, such as transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR).

FDA-approved minimally invasive procedures, like TAVR, may require less time in the hospital with faster procedure times, and may result in an overall quicker recovery. According to the HVS survey, 98 percent of patients who received TAVR reported being satisfied with TAVR as a treatment option.

Like any medical procedure, undergoing a heart valve procedure such as TAVR or SAVR is not without risk. Risks may vary with patient characteristics such as age, sex, severity of illness, comorbidities and family history. Some risks may be severe (death, stroke, or serious bleeding).

Talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits to determine if TAVR is an option for you.

4. What advice do heart valve patients have for others seeking treatment?

Understanding all the steps around the diagnosis, treatment and recovery process for heart valve disease can be overwhelming. However, the right information can help empower you to feel confident in your treatment decision. Recent research from HVS found that more than 1 in 3 (36 percent) of heart valve patients wished they had talked to other patients or an online support group, or asked more questions at their doctor’s appointments (37 percent). There is a wealth of educational resources available to patients. Today, more than 300,000 patients and caregivers belong to the online support group provided by HVS.

5. How will treating my heart valve disease impact my life?

Recent research from HVS found that 4 in 5 patients (82 percent) who received heart valve surgery reported being able to exercise as a top benefit post-treatment, while nearly half (47 percent) said their heart valve procedure allowed them to spend more time with family and friends.

To learn more about heart valve disease and the Active Living Awareness Initiative, visit https://www.heart-valve-surgery.com/medtronic-active-living-patient-survey.

Heart-Valve-Surgery.com (HVS) and Medtronic collaborated to launch the Active Living Awareness Initiative, providing resources, support and educational materials for heart valve patients.

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