Arnold Schwarzenegger crash: Emergency services respond
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The star, who is now 74, was born with a heart defect known as aortic stenosis meaning problems with his vital organ have been present since birth. Described as a “valve disease” The American Heart Association explains that aortic stenosis is one of the “most common and serious” causing the aortic valve opening to narrow. Due to this, Schwarzenegger underwent his first ever heart surgery back in 1997, which failed almost 20 years later leading to his subsequent surgery in 2018, and then a third in 2020.
Although aortic stenosis typically develops due to ageing and the build-up of calcium or scarring damages in the valve, for those born with the condition it can be caused by backward flow of blood, narrowing of the aortic valve or an enlarged aorta.
The Mayo Clinic explains that in a healthy heart the aortic valve has three cusps, but one affected by aortic stenosis only has two cusps. Rarely, some people are born with an aortic valve that has one cusp (unicuspid) or four cusps (quadricuspid).
It is important to note that those diagnosed with aortic stenosis do not experience any noticeable symptoms until the amount of restricted blood flow becomes greatly reduced.
Due to this, the condition is typically diagnosed when an individual is having medical tests for another health condition altogether. Doctors may be able to hear a heart murmur when listening to the heart with a stethoscope.
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When symptoms do present themselves they can include the following:
- Chest pain
- Rapid, fluttering heartbeat
- Trouble breathing or feeling short of breath
- Feeling dizzy or light-headed, even fainting
- Difficulty walking short distances
- Swollen ankles or feet
- Difficulty sleeping or needing to sleep sitting up
- Decline in activity level or reduced ability to do normal activities.
Others may also be able to notice a family member or close friend decline in routine or physical activities due to the effect of significant fatigue. At this stage it is recommended that individuals seek medical advice.
Infants and children who have aortic stenosis due to a congenital defect may exhibit symptoms such as:
- Fatigue upon exertion
- Failure to gain weight
- Poor or inadequate feeding
- Breathing problems.
Over time, as the heart is working harder to pump blood through the narrowed valve opening into the aorta, the muscles may thicken.
This thickened wall takes up more space inside the lower heart chamber that allows less room for an adequate amount of blood to be supplied to the body. This may lead to heart failure – a long-term condition that cannot be cured.
In order to avoid this, treatment is used to help reverse or slow down the progress of the disease.
Similar to Schwarzenegger’s case, aortic valve replacement is the most commonly used surgery. During this procedure, the surgeon removes the damaged valve and replaces it with a mechanical valve or a valve made from cow, pig or human heart tissue (biological tissue valve).
However, biological tissue valves break down over time and may eventually need to be replaced and people with mechanical valves will need to take blood thinners for the rest of their lives to prevent blood clots.
Back in 2018, the star took to social media to announce the news of his surgery and show his gratitude for the medical professionals who looked after him. He shared: “It’s true: I’m back!
“I went to sleep expecting to wake up with a small incision and woke up with a big one — but guess what? I woke up, and that’s something to be thankful for. Thank you to the doctors & nurses.”
Then again in 2020, Schwarzenegger showed his appreciation for the medical staff who replaced his pulmonary valve. He posted: “Thanks to the team at the Cleveland Clinic, I have a new aortic valve to go along with my new pulmonary valve from my last surgery.
“I feel fantastic and have already been walking the streets of Cleveland enjoying your amazing statues. Thank you to every doc and nurse on my team!”
After his latest surgery, Schwarzenegger also shared that he had switched to a mostly plant-based diet, now rarely eating meat in order to maintain his heart and cholesterol health.
He shared with fans: “I have been about 80% plant-based for the past five years of my life.
“Even though I still eat meat sometimes, because I can’t resist a juicy steak when I have friends over or a crispy wiener schnitzel in Austria, I mostly eat plant-based because it is better for my overall health, and as my friend Jim Cameron taught me, better for the environment because the clearing of forests and the raising of animals for meat causes so much pollution.
“My bad cholesterol number is so low that my doctor thought I might be a different person and [I] feel healthier and younger overall.”
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