With expanded options for replacing stiff or leaky heart valves, more people can avoid surgery.
The heart's four valves open and shut in a carefully timed sequence to move blood through and out of the heart to the body. But as people age, these one-way valves may narrow and stiffen — a problem known as stenosis — which partially limits blood flow. Heart valves can also leak, allowing blood to flow backward; that's called regurgitation.
About one in 10 adults ages 65 and older has moderate to severe heart valve disease. Without timely diagnosis and treatment (see "Monitoring heart valve disease"), valve problems can worsen, causing serious and sometimes fatal consequences. The good news: More people who need a new heart valve can get one without major surgery.
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