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It's Topic Tuesday

Hello beautiful people! And a Happy Topic Tuesday to you.

I hope everyone is feeling well this Tuesday morning. Remember, if you woke up today, you have already won. Please enjoy yourself and spread a smile to the people around you if you can.

Today's topic will be a little bit of a review of something we touched upon during Aortic Disease Awareness month - aortic valve disease.

As a reminder - most aortic valves are "tri-leaflet" meaning they contain three cusps that open to allow blood to fill the heart and then flow to the rest of the body and close to prevent blood from flowing backward.

This great diagram from helps demonstrate that beautiful "Mercedes-Benz" structure of the valve. The aortic valve is the last valve blood flows through before leaving the heart and going to the rest of the body, so it is always under high pressure!

Most diseases of the aortic valve have to do with it either getting too tight or too loose/floppy. When this happens the heart needs to work extra hard to do its job cause it to weaken over time without treatment.

Aortic Stenosis

Aortic valve stenosis can occur for many reasons as we age. Either calcium or lipids could develop around the leaflets of the valve and harden over time. As a result the opening from the aorta to the rest of the body becomes tight, cause the hard muscles to need to pump harder to do its job.

Think about the flow of blood through a hose. Now imagine what happens when you place your thumb in front of the nozzle! The pressure is greater and the flow is less smooth. That's similar to what happens in aortic stenosis.

Some common symptoms of aortic stenosis include shortness of breath and tiredness, especially when walking or exercising. Some people with severe stenosis may experience "syncope" or dizziness / loss of consciousness if blood is unable to travel effectively out the aorta and feed the brain.

While aortic stenosis usually occurs in older people, one risk factor for aortic stenosis in younger patients (~40-60 years old) is a variant of the aortic valve called bicuspid aortic valves.

In these valves, only two leaflets are available, which could cause them to harden earlier in life from calcium deposition. There is a lot of research to suggest bicuspid aortic valves may run in families, so be sure to always get tested if someone in your family has a history of bicuspid aortic valves. Well-documented histories of you and your family are always helpful when managing these conditions with your healthcare team!

Aortic Regurgitation (insufficiency)

Remember, blood flow through your heart should always be forward meaning once a blood flows from one chamber or area to the next, it should not ever go back. Our valves seal tightly to help prevent backwards flow.

Aortic regurgitation refers to a floppy or leaky aortic valve. When this happens, a little bit of blood may flow back to the heart instead of out to the rest of the body through the aorta. Individuals with this condition may notice a lot of similar symptoms to aortic stenosis, especially shortness of breath and weakness with exercise.

Some risk factors for aortic regurgitation include old age, connective tissue disease like Marfan Syndrome, and also bicuspid aortic valves.

And that's it for this week! Be sure to join us next week as Duc will be discussing some treatment options for aortic valve disease. It's always a pleasure to chat with you all. Until next time, remember to be safe. Be happy. And always #ThinkAorta

Your friend,


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