How Common is Aortic Stenosis?

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: May 2024

Aortic stenosis (AS) is one of the most common heart valve conditions. It affects millions of people around the world. With this heart condition, the aortic valve narrows, reducing the blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body. AS can lead to serious health issues if not treated.1

How common is aortic stenosis?

Aortic stenosis is relatively common, especially in older adults. Experts estimate that AS affects more than 12 percent of Americans over age 65. This makes AS one of the most frequent and serious heart valve diseases in this population.1-3

Who gets aortic stenosis?

AS mostly affects older adults. As people age, calcium can build up on the aortic valve, leaving it hardened and stiff. This makes it harder for blood to flow through the valve. In less common cases, young people can develop AS.1-3

These risk factors can increase the likelihood of developing AS:1-3

  • Age – Aging is the biggest risk factor for AS. It is rare in younger people but becomes more common with advancing age.
  • Congenital heart defects – Some people are born with just 2 heart valves (bicuspid aortic valve) instead of the normal 3 valves (tricuspid aortic valve). This condition can lead to earlier development of AS.
  • Rheumatic fever – This illness, which can result from untreated strep throat, can damage the aortic valve and lead to AS later in life.
  • Childhood cancer – Children who have received radiation treatment to their chest area have a higher risk of AS later in life.
  • Other heart conditions – People with heart failure, heart murmur, arrhythmia, and heart attack are more likely to have valve problems.
  • Lifestyle factors – High blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and diabetes are all linked to an increased risk of developing AS. These factors affect overall heart health.

Differences by gender

AS can affect all genders. But there are key differences in how the disease manifests and progresses.4

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In the past, experts thought that men were more likely to develop AS. But recent research shows that it affects women at the same rate, just in different ways. Women tend to start having symptoms later than men. In fact, AS is more common in women who are over age 70.4

AS symptoms also may differ in men and women. Men typically have typical AS symptoms – chest pain, fatigue, and heart palpitations. But women may experience less common symptoms, like dizziness and shortness of breath. Women are also more likely to view their symptoms as less severe than they are. Not taking symptoms seriously can lead to delayed diagnosis.4

Research also shows that anatomically speaking, women tend to have more scarring (fibrosis) on the aortic valve than calcium buildup. This and other clinical differences may show up differently on imaging and tests, which can lead to underdiagnosis in women. More research is needed to fully understand how AS affects men and women differently.4

Prognosis of aortic stenosis

The prognosis for AS varies based on how severe it is and how early it is treated. Mild to moderate AS can often be managed with regular monitoring and lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes that can reduce heart disease risk factors include eating a healthy diet, exercising, and taking medicines to treat high blood pressure and high cholesterol.1

However, severe AS has a much more serious outlook. Without treatment, severe AS can lead to heart failure, stroke, and – in the worst cases – death. Symptoms like chest pain, fainting, and shortness of breath are signs of advanced disease and should be treated as soon as possible.1-3

Treatment for aortic stenosis

The standard treatment for severe AS is an aortic valve replacement. This can be done with traditional open-heart surgery or a less invasive method called transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR). It is worth noting that women typically have better overall results with the TAVR procedure than with open-heart surgery.2,3

Advances in medical and surgical treatments offer hope and improved outcomes for those diagnosed with AS. Many can now lead much longer, healthier lives.3

Treatment results and side effects can vary from person to person. This treatment information is not meant to replace professional medical advice. Talk to your doctor about what to expect before starting and while taking any treatment.

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