It’s estimated that by 2056, 3.3 million people over 65 will have aortic stenosis, yet recent research found 94 per cent of people over 60 have no idea what it was.
When Sue Jardine, below, became tired and breathless, she put it down to getting older but little did she realise it was down to this common heart condition.
“It started in 2007 when I had a heart attack while on the golf course,” says Sue. “I went into hospital and recovered fine, but some time after that I started feeling unwell. I found I repeatedly couldn’t catch my breath and my legs felt weak. I was also dizzy and had this feeling of fading in and out of consciousness, often after I’d been over-doing things.
“I was getting more and more tired and got to the point where going upstairs, I’d climb two stairs and then have to sit down for a minute before I tackled the next two. But I just thought it was normal at my age and following the heart attack.”
Eventually Sue went to see her GP who told her she had aortic stenosis, a type of heart-valve disease that affects 1.5 million people over 65. But while incredibly common, even in people with no history of heart attacks, it’s often misdiagnosed as simply getting older. This is the operation Sue underwent in 2014.
“I was nervous about the operation, but the doctors completely reassured me. There was no pain or discomfort and the next day I was out of bed, going upstairs and felt amazing. The surgery took years off me and I felt so much fitter. In fact, since the operation my children and husband get irritated with how much energy I have and are often telling me to sit down.”
The condition affects the heart valve which controls the flow of blood out from the heart to the rest of the body. This valve degenerates over time to narrow and harden, making it more difficult for blood to pump out of the heart. Left untreated, it can lead to heart failure. But luckily, the condition can be easily picked up by a stethoscope and can be treated with a simple, minimally invasive procedure, called transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI), where a replacement heart valve is fitted onto the site of the existing heart valves to help the heart beat normally.
“My friends say to me ‘oh I’m so tired, it’s just old age’, but I encourage any of them with similar symptoms to mine to take action and visit the GP because it’s such a simple thing to fix. It’s nothing to be scared of and you get a new lease of life!”
Know when to see your GP
If you have symptoms of breathlessness, chest discomfort, dizziness, fainting or palpitations and are finding you can’t do things you used to do in comparison to friends your own age, see your GP and ask to be checked with a stethoscope as this can pick up aortic stenosis.
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