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illustration showing case of heart valves with and without stenosis with a normal valve open and closed and a stenosis valve open and closed.



Simply put, the heart is a pump—moving blood through the lungs to the body. To keep blood moving in one direction, the heart has a series of four one-way valves (like doorways). The aortic valve is the last in the series, and it is the last stop for blood on the way out of the heart.

In its natural state, the aortic valve is as flexible and strong as a parachute, with three leaflets. As the heart pumps, the aortic valve opens—allowing blood to pass effortlessly to the body. As the heart relaxes, the aortic valve closes abruptly—stopping the flow of blood back into the heart.



Aortic valve disease indicates an abnormality of the aortic valve or the structure on which the valve sits. Aortic valve disease may be the result of a birth defect, such as a bicuspid valve (two leaflets instead of three). The disease may be acquired following rheumatic fever, or more commonly, as a consequence of aging.

Aortic valve stenosis indicates a ‘hardening’ or narrowing of the valve. Over time, calcium deposits within the valve leaflets and the valve turns to a hard substance, like bone. As the valve hardens, it does not open normally and it becomes increasingly difficult for the heart to push blood past the valve and out to the body. Less commonly, aortic valve disease manifests as regurgitation, or leakage, in which the valve leaflets do not close completely and blood leaks back into the heart after each beat


“ I had no symptoms or problems and was surprised to learn that my aortic valve was more than 90% blocked. I would encourage all adults to have an annual physical exam.”

Stewart Gully, Surgical Aortic
Valve Replacement Patient


Chest pain (also referred to as angina) Dyspnea (difficulty or labored breathing)  Syncope (black-out or fainting spells) Fatigue especially during exertion that previously was effortless Palpitations

Life-limiting symptoms (chest pain, dyspnea, and syncope) are present in two-thirds of afflicted patients with aortic valve disease when it reaches a severe stage. This often results in hospital admissions with substantial lost work productivity and out of pocket expenses.

Living With

Aortic Valve Disease

In general, patients with aortic valve disease do not need to limit their activities until the disease becomes severe. Staying in good physical condition is critical to a healthy lifestyle. In patients without severe aortic valve disease, monitoring for symptoms, controlling blood pressure, and limiting salt (sodium) intake are the most important lifestyle modifications. However, patients with severe aortic valve stenosis will often be advised not to engage in vigorous activities, and they will be asked to spend extra time in warm-up and cool-down when physically active.

Do I need


When aortic valve disease is mild, the heart functions normally, and there is no impact on a person’s daily activities.

Most forms of aortic valve disease start off slowly and progress to a severe stage of stenosis or regurgitation. At this point, heart function is impaired, and life-limiting symptoms begin restricting a person’s activities. If the disease is left untreated at this later stage, symptom progression is both rapid and lethal, with a median survival of less than 2 years in those with heart-failure symptoms.



THE INFORMATION on this website has been developed by people who have severe aortic valve disease in collaboration with caregivers, clinicians, and researchers. The intent is to help you understand aortic valve disease and the available treatment options. We do not intend to guide your treatment. Only your healthcare provider can do that.  We hope this information will help facilitate a conversation with your family and your health care provider. Please consult your healthcare provider regarding your personal health matters.