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A Healthy Heart is a Happy Heart

A Healthy Heart is a Happy Heart

Treatment options for aortic stenosis, a serious impairment of the heart’s pumping system, have improved significantly in recent years, allowing replacement of the critical heart valve using minimally invasive surgery, according to Nowwar Mustafa, MD, a Washington Township Medical Foundation interventional cardiologist.

Dr. Mustafa will discuss symptoms and treatment options for aortic stenosis, a potentially deadly heart disease which once could only be corrected by open heart surgery. Community members are invited to join this online Health & Wellness seminar at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1.

Titled, “Happy Heart: Treatment Options for Aortic Stenosis,” the seminar can be viewed live on Facebook and YouTube. For Facebook, sign in to your account and then go to facebook.com/WashingtonHosp. YouTube does not require an account. Simply go to YouTube.com/whhsInHealth.

“Aortic stenosis occurs when the aortic valve thickens and doesn’t open fully, reducing the flow of blood from the heart to the body’s main artery,” Dr. Mustafa explains. Usually the narrowing is a function of aging and aortic stenosis mostly occurs in patients over the age of 65.

The valve thickens with age and, in some individuals, becomes less mobile and makes pushing blood from the heart into the rest of the body more difficult. “The aortic valve is the gateway from the heart to your body, so it is critical that it functions properly,” explains Dr. Mustafa.

Until the last few years, open heart surgery was the only method to repair the aortic valve. This entailed opening the patient’s chest, placing the patient on a heart-lung machine and then replacing the valve. The surgery was long and often difficult, and recovery could take several weeks.

Now, Dr. Mustafa says, the aortic valve can be replaced by a method similar to that used to place stents in clogged heart arteries. A line is inserted into an artery in the groin and threaded to the old aortic valve. A new valve is inserted inside the damaged valve, wedged into place and then begins to function normally. Instead of opening the chest, the patient only has a small incision at the point of entry, and typically, the patient can go home in a matter of a few days.

Originally used for patients who couldn’t tolerate open heart surgery, the minimally invasive technique, known as TAVR (transcatheter aortic valve replacement), has become much more common. Patients in their 80s and 90s, and even a 100-year-old patient, have successfully undergone aortic valve replacement using TAVR, Dr. Mustafa points out.

Symptoms of aortic stenosis are similar to symptoms of a variety of heart diseases. Fatigue, shortness of breath, feeling faint or dizzy, and chest pains are symptoms that can signal a heart problem. “The most important thing to do is go have yourself checked by a doctor if you experience any unusual symptoms,” he says. “Many people attribute some of these symptoms to old age, believing it’s something to live with, not realizing it may be signaling something more serious that could be corrected. And some others are afraid to find out what might be wrong. But it’s important to be checked. It could save your life.”

For more information on the cardiac services offered through Washington Hospital, visit whhs.com/Heart. Through their YouTube channel, www.YouTube.com/whhsInHealth, Washington Hospital provides many health-related videos that feature experts in their fields.