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Aortic Stenosis

Learn the symptoms of aortic stenosis and how to treat it.
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Written by Sourav Bose, MD.
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Medically reviewed by
UCLA Health Cardiology Fellow
Last updated March 11, 2021

Aortic stenosis quiz

Take a quiz to find out if you have aortic stenosis.

What is aortic stenosis?

Aortic stenosis—or aortic valve stenosis—occurs when the heart's aortic valve stiffens and narrows. The aortic valve keeps blood flowing in the correct direction in the heart, from the main left chamber (ventricle) to the main heart artery (aorta).

Aortic stenosis can disrupt blood flow, particularly to the brain, and cause dizziness or chest pain. When the blood flow through the aortic valve is reduced or blocked, your heart needs to work harder to pump blood to your body. Eventually, this can weaken your heart muscle.

Treatment depends on the severity of your condition. You may need surgery to replace the valve. Left untreated, aortic valve stenosis can lead to serious heart problems.

Most common symptoms

Pro Tip

Asymptomatic patients are usually diagnosed when a doctor hears a heart murmur during a physical exam and then refers them for an echocardiogram—an ultrasound of the heart. —Dr. Jay Patel

Often aortic stenosis is discovered by accident when doing other tests. When you do have symptoms, it’s usually because you have more advanced narrowing and stiffness of the valve.

Main symptoms

  • Chest pain
  • Heart palpitations (rapid, strong or irregular heartbeats)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Easily tired
  • Dizziness

Causes of aortic stenosis

Some people are born with valves that are likely to get narrowed and others develop narrowing due to risk factors such as age, smoking, and scar tissue. Other conditions like high blood pressure, radiation exposure, or infections can also increase risk.

Specific causes of aortic stenosis include:

  • Calcium buildup on the valve: With age, heart valves may accumulate deposits of calcium. Calcium is a mineral found in your blood. These calcium deposits aren't linked to taking calcium tablets or drinks. In some people, calcium deposits result in stiffening of the cusps of the valve. It usually doesn't cause symptoms until ages 70 or 80.
  • Congenital heart defect: Some children are born with an aortic valve that has only two (bicuspid) cusps instead of three, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. This defect may not cause any problems until they become adults. It requires regular monitoring to watch for signs of valve problems.
  • Rheumatic fever: A complication of untreated strep throat, rheumatic fever may result in scar tissue forming on the aortic valve. Scar tissue can narrow the aortic valve and lead to stenosis.

Next steps

There are usually no symptoms with aortic stenosis. If you have intermittent chest pain or dizziness, visit your doctor. You may need to see a cardiologist or cardiac surgeon. If you experience sudden chest pain or dizziness, you should go to the emergency room immediately.

Can aortic stenosis be cured?

Dr. Rx

In the last 10 years, we have completely changed the course on how this disease is managed with great effectiveness. TAVR is a safe and minimally invasive way to treat what was once thought to be a surgical disease. Ask your doctor if you are a candidate for TAVR. —Dr. Patel

Your doctor will ask you a series of questions and will examine you carefully. You may undergo an EKG (electrocardiogram) to record the electrical signal from your heart, an ultrasound of the heart, and/or a stress test to evaluate your heart’s function.

Different treatments include:

Watch and wait

If your symptoms are mild or you aren't experiencing symptoms, your doctor may monitor your condition with regular follow-up appointments.

Lifestyle changes

Your doctor may recommend you make healthy lifestyle changes like eating a healthy diet and getting more physical activity.


You may be prescribed medications for high blood pressure. You may also be prescribed medications to help remove excess fluid accumulation, which can occur as the valve gets tighter.


Your doctor may recommend surgery, with or without symptoms. In some cases, surgery may be minimally invasive. In other cases, an open heart surgery may be required.

Surgery options include:

  • Balloon valvuloplasty: A doctor inserts a catheter with a balloon into the aortic valve and inflates a little balloon. This expands the opening of the valve. The balloon is then deflated, and the catheter and balloon are removed. This is a minimally invasive procedure.
  • Transcatheter aortic valve replacement: This is a new technique that has changed the way aortic stenosis is treated today. This is a minimally invasive procedure to replace the aortic valve and help relieve symptoms.
  • Surgical aortic valve replacement: In this open heart surgery procedure, the surgeon removes the damaged valve and replaces it with a mechanical valve or a valve made from cow, pig, or human heart tissue.

Ready to treat your aortic stenosis?

We show you only the best treatments for your condition and symptoms—all vetted by our medical team. And when you’re not sure what’s wrong, Buoy can guide you in the right direction.See all treatment options
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Risk factors

People who are more at risk for aortic valve stenosis include:

  • Over 70 years old
  • History of rheumatic fever
  • Certain heart conditions present at birth (congenital heart disease) such as a bicuspid aortic valve
  • History of infections (endocarditis) that can affect the heart
  • Having health issues that can lead to heart problems such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • History of radiation therapy to the chest
  • History of smoking

Follow up

You should follow up with your doctor for regular heart exams on a long-term basis.

If you had surgery, you will also see a cardiac surgeon to ensure healing is going well. You'll need to continue to take your medications as prescribed.

People with a childhood history of rheumatic fever or heart abnormalities should get evaluated even if they don’t have symptoms.

Pro Tip

If TAVR is not an option and you will need surgical aortic valve replacement, ask your doctor which kind of valve replacement you are being considered for. There are different kinds of surgical valves. Some require being on blood thinners lifelong—it is important to know this beforehand. —Dr. Patel

Preventative tips

There are many ways to reduce your risk of aortic stenosis:

  • Eat a heart-healthy diet of fruits and vegetables, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, poultry, fish, and whole grains. Avoid saturated and trans fat, and excess salt and sugar.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Get regular physical activity. Aim to get about 30 minutes of physical activity every day.
  • Try to relieve your stress. Activities like meditation, exercise, and time with family and friends can help you relax.
  • Avoid tobacco. If you smoke, ask your doctor about resources to help you quit. Joining a support group may be helpful.
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The stories shared below are not written by Buoy employees. Buoy does not endorse any of the information in these stories. Whenever you have questions or concerns about a medical condition, you should always contact your doctor or a healthcare provider.
UCLA Health Cardiology Fellow
Dr. Patel is a cardiology fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles. He received his undergraduate degrees in Mathematics and Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he was a student in the Guaranteed Pre-Professional Admissions Program. After graduating summa cum laude with 2 degrees in 3 years, he matriculated to medical school at the University of Illinois. He compl...
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