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What is Aortic Stenosis?

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Angioplasty and Vascular Stenting

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with aortic stenosis, you are not alone. Aortic stenosis is one of the most common valvular heart diseases, impacting 1.5 million Americans. More than one in eight people over 75 are affected by this progressive condition.

Understanding aortic stenosis

The heart is comprised of four chambers-  two upper chambers called the atria, and two bottom chambers called the ventricles. Each of these chambers is divided by thin layers of tissue called valves. Much like doors that open and close, these one-way valves help regulate blood flow through the heart. The heart has a total of four valves:

  • Tricuspid valve
  • Pulmonary valve
  • Mitral valve
  • Aortic valve

In a healthy heart, blood flows freely from the left ventricle through the aortic valve and into the aorta, where the oxygenated blood gets delivered to the rest of the body. The aortic valve prevents a backward flow of blood from the aorta into the heart. 

In some cases, the aortic valve becomes diseased, causing the valve flaps to become thickened or stiff. Stenosis means narrowing, so with aortic stenosis, the diseased valves restrict blood flow out of the heart. As a result, the heart must work harder to pump blood through the valve.

How serious is aortic stenosis?

The heart can usually manage the diseased valve in the early stages of aortic stenosis. However, aortic stenosis is a progressive disease. Over time, the increased pressure in the left ventricle thickens the heart muscle, leading to heart failure and death.

What is the life expectancy of someone with aortic stenosis?

Studies show that the average survival rate after diagnosis is 2-3 years without treatment. Once symptoms develop, patients were severe aortic stenosis disease have a 50 percent survival rate at two years and a 12 percent survival rate at five years.

What are the signs and symptoms of aortic stenosis?

As the aortic valves start to become smaller, or stenotic, lower amounts of blood are pushed less forcefully from the heart to the rest of the body. As a result, the following symptoms tend to arise:

  • Shortness of breath, especially with activity
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Fatigue
  • Lightheadedness or fainting
  • Rapid fluttering heartbeat or other heart palpitations
  • Difficulty walking short distances

Causes of aortic stenosis

The risk of aortic stenosis increases as we age, especially for those who follow an unhealthy lifestyle. Like most cardiac diseases, aortic stenosis is an inflammatory disorder. Increasing evidence suggests that aortic valve stenosis may be largely preventable in the same way as atherosclerosis. The most commonly cited causes of aortic stenosis include:

1. Calcium buildup that increases with age

Along with other nutrients, the blood carries calcium. As blood repeatedly passes through the aortic valve, calcium deposits may form on the valve, making it stiff and unable to open fully.

But what causes this calcification of the aortic valve? In most cases, the same lifestyle factors that cause clogged arteries also contribute to a diseased aortic valve.

The inflammation arises from eating a poor diet, living a sedentary lifestyle, and experiencing stress. Moreover, exposure to pesticides, plastics, phthalates, mold mycotoxins, and heavy metals also increases calcification. Recent studies also show that poor dental health and root canals may increase the risk of aortic stenosis as well.

2. Congenital abnormalities

A healthy aortic valve has three flaps, or cusps, that fit together snugly. However, some individuals are born with aortic valves having only one or two cusps. The most common congenital heart condition is a bicuspid aortic valve, impacting approximately 2 percent of the population. More common in men, a bicuspid aortic valve only has two flaps instead of the typical three.

3. Rheumatic fever

Although much less common today, this inflammatory disease, typically caused by untreated strep throat or scarlet fever, can scar the aortic valve and trigger aortic stenosis.

Diagnosis of aortic stenosis

A doctor will often listen to the heart with a stethoscope if aortic valve stenosis is suspected. Individuals with aortic stenosis often have a high-pitched murmur recognizable by a healthcare professional.

Further testing typically includes an echocardiogram, or echo for short. An echo is a type of ultrasound that uses sound waves to take pictures of the heart. An echo will reveal how well blood is flowing through the aortic valve. Sometimes, doctors want to perform a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE).

This test uses a small tube and camera that is inserted down the throat to get a closer look at the aortic valve.

Other possible diagnostic tests for those with aortic stenosis include:

  • Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG)
  • Chest x-ray or CT scan
  • Exercise stress test
  • Cardiac MRI
  • Cardiac catheterization

Keep in mind, however, that most of these tests are completely unnecessary and may do more harm than good.

Treatment for aortic stenosis

Many individuals with mild to moderate disease are carefully monitored by their cardiologist for disease advancement. However, surgical treatment will be necessary if the valve becomes too tight. For most people, aortic valve disease becomes a mechanical problem that requires surgery. 

Aortic valve replacement can be done through open heart surgery or minimally invasive methods using a catheter. Transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR, has become an increasingly popular treatment for aortic valve stenosis.

Preventing aortic stenosis

Most conventional doctors will have you believe that aortic stenosis is an unpreventable disease that comes with aging. However, this is not true.

Aortic stenosis can often be prevented by following the tenants of Eat Well, Live Well, and Think Well. Living a healthy lifestyle is the best path to preserving the aortic valve without needing surgery.

Moreover, individuals who already have an aortic stenosis diagnosis can slow the progress of the disease by following the same healthy lifestyle. And, though surgery may eventually be necessary, the following lifestyle choices can optimize health, ensuring the best outcomes possible.

Eat Well

Nutrition is paramount for optimal health and longevity. By following the wisdom of our ancestors, who naturally ate only whole organic foods, we can reduce inflammation, thus lowering calcification.

Live Well

A healthy lifestyle is equally important to lowering inflammation. Reducing stress, ensuring quality sleep, smart sunshine exposure, and adequate physical activity will improve the outcome for those with aortic stenosis – as will reducing exposure to chemicals and toxins.

Think Well

It’s easy to fall into a pit of sadness and hopelessness, especially when facing a life-threatening health condition. However, many people are surprised to learn that negative emotions promote inflammation. Mindset is critical for healing, so do what it takes to find your happy.

Finally, many people wonder: Can aortic stenosis be cured? Depending on the severity of the aortic stenosis, it’s possible to heal. Mild disease can be halted with lifestyle changes. For those with advanced disease requiring surgical valve replacement, following the Eat Well, Live Well, Think Well tenant can put the condition into permanent remission.

Next Steps

Aortic stenosis is a scary condition that undoubtedly requires prompt attention. Time is of the essence if you’ve been diagnosed with aortic stenosis. The team at Natural Heart Doctor has decades of experience treating cardiac valve diseases, including aortic stenosis. Contact us today if you suspect you may have aortic stenosis or need help navigating your diagnosis. We offer strategies for management. We offer hope.

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He heals the body, instead of just treating the symptoms!

With his professional qualifications as a certified family nurse practitioner, a doctor of chiropractic, and a fellow of the International Academy of Medical Acupuncture, Dr. Smigiel offers patients comprehensive care from a broad perspective of conventional and alternative medicine. He also has extensive experience in functional rehabilitation and chronic pain management.

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About Dr. James Kneller, M.D., Ph.D., FHRS

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Dr. James Kneller is one of the nation’s leading heart rhythm specialists. Dr. Kneller is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) in Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology, Cardiovascular Disease, and Internal Medicine.

As a Fellow of the Heart Rhythm Society (FHRS) and Certified Cardiac Device Specialist (CCDS), Kneller provides comprehensive patient care, combining best medical practice with invasive procedures using state-of-the-art technologies to treat heart rhythm disorders.

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About Dr. Lauren Lattanza NMD, FACC

Dr. Lattanza Office Visit with Patient

As a Naturopathic Physician, I am trained to treat the whole person and get to the root cause of disease.

I went to Arizona State University where I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a depth in physiology and minor in Spanish. After my undergraduate degree I was working on prerequisite classes towards medical school, which is when I came to learn that my values identified best with the principles of naturopathic medicine. I knew that I wanted to help patients identify the causes of disease and be able to offer treatments which would improve their health rather than simply treating symptoms.

I dedicated the next 4 years to the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona where I attained my Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine. I served as Class President all 4 years, Board of Trustees – Student Trustee, spoke as the Club President for our branch of Toastmasters, and was voted by my peers and attending physicians to earn the Outstanding Leadership Award for the Class of 2020. Throughout medical school I took it upon myself to work alongside MDs, DOs, chiropractors, and functional medicine practitioners in addition to naturopathic physicians.

As a Spanish speaking student, I was able to volunteer with community clinics around Phoenix and provide free healthcare to low-income families. Due to this combined exposure, I came to find my passion in treating cardiometabolic and digestive disorders that are all too common, yet largely preventable. I took the opportunity to learn the broad spectrum of healthcare so I can ensure that I am able to provide my patients with the best options.

About Dr. Jack Wolfson DO, FACC

Dr. Wolfson Office Visit with Patient

Dr. Jack Wolfson is a board-certified cardiologist, Amazon best-selling author, husband, father, and the nation’s #1 Natural Heart Doctor.

For more than two decades, more than one million people have enjoyed the warmth, compassion, and transformational power of his natural heart health courses and events.

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Dr. Wolfson and his wife Heather have four children and are committed to making the world a better place to live. They provide for those in need (including animals) and support natural health causes through their philanthropic efforts.

Chiropractic

Our chiropractor is an expert at adjustments and holistic chiropractic care and works closely in conjunction with the other health care experts at Natural Heart Doctor.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

IV Therapy

We use specially formulated natural vitamins and minerals that are injected into a vein to prevent or treat dehydration. Ideal for people in Arizona.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Acupuncture

Stimulate your body’s natural healing abilities and promote physical and emotional well-being with acupuncture at Natural Heart Doctor.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Health Coaching

Our health coaches use evidence based skillful conversation, clinical interventions, and strategies to engage you actively and safely in health behavior changes.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Cardio Tests

We use the most advanced testing in the world to assess heart health and to identify the root cause of your health issues.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Office Visits

Schedule an office visit with one of our cardiologists, holistic physicians, chiropractor, or health coaches.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Frequently Asked Questions

I’d like to receive an online second opinion from Natural Heart Doctor. What do I do next?

You can initiate a second opinion online through our website at any time. To begin, select the team member you’d like to speak with and open an account.

Click here for cardiologist Dr. Jack Wolfson.

Naturopathic Medical Doctor Dr. Lauren Lattanza. Get details.

Naturopathic Medical Doctor Dr. Tonia Rainier. Get details.

Click here for  Natural Heart Doctor Health Coach.

Alternatively, you can email health@naturalheartdoctor.com. A member of our care team will help guide you through the process of starting a second opinion.

What is the cost of a Natural Heart Doctor Online Second Opinion?

The cost for most second opinions varies by team member. This fee includes information collection, a phone or video consultation, a second opinion from a Natural Heart Doctor specialist and guidance throughout the process from your personal Care Team at Natural Heart Doctor.

Cardiologist Dr. Jack Wolfson’s Second Opinion Fee is $1500.

Holistic Physician’s Dr. Lauren Lattanza’s Second Opinion Fee is $250.

Naturopathic Physician Dr. Tonia Rainier’s Second Opinion Fee is $250.

Note: We apply the Online Second Opinion Call fee as a credit to any future consultations with Natural Heart Doctor, should you choose them.

Will my insurance cover the cost of a Natural Heart Doctor Online Second Opinion?

Most likely, no. Most health plans do not cover online second opinions or consultations. You are responsible for the cost of our second opinion. Natural Heart Doctor cannot file a claim with your insurance carrier, nor can we provide a procedure (CPT) code for this service.

What is the timeline to receive an online second opinion?

We do our best to schedule your second opinion as quickly as possible. Typically, it takes 5 to 7 business days after your information has been collected to receive your phone or video online second opinion.

What information do you need in advance of our call?

Our office will send you a short questionnaire to complete and return. We DO NOT need your complete medical records.

How many questions can I ask the expert during our call?

You may ask a maximum of five questions. This is to ensure that the expert has sufficient time to devote to each question. All questions must be finalized before your online meeting.

What should I expect to receive once my second opinion is complete?

You will receive a summary of our discussion along with our second opinion. The second opinion will be in written form. After you have reviewed the second opinion, a Natural Heart Doctor clinician will follow up with you by phone to address general medical questions about the information provided in the second opinion.

What if I have follow-up questions for the expert after I have reviewed my second opinion?

If you have a clarifying question about an expert’s response to one of the questions in your second opinion, and the Natural Heart Doctor clinician is unable to address it, then you may request a follow up session for an additional fee. 

Is my medical and payment information secure?

Natural Heart Doctor is strongly committed to protecting the privacy and security of all our patients. Our website meets all federal requirements for protecting personal health information under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). All financial transactions are processed by Natural Heart Doctor securely using industry standard payment processing tools.

I would rather visit Natural Heart Doctor for an in-person appointment. What should I do next?

If you would prefer an in-person appointment at Natural Heart Doctor instead of an online second opinion, please call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Can I schedule a follow up appointment with the specialist who provided my online second opinion?

Yes, we’re happy to help you on an extended basis. Our clinician can discuss options with you when presenting our second opinion summary.