Barbara Walters Prepares for Heart Surgery

Walters' procedure will involve open-heart surgery. Doctors will have a choice as to whether to replace her aortic valve with a mechanical valve made of metal, one made of biological tissue, a transplanted valve from a donor heart or even her own valve from another part of her heart.

"She would appear to be in relatively good overall condition, and traditional surgery, probably with a tissue valve, is the gold standard," said Dr. Jeff Brinker, a cardiologist at Johns Hopkins Heart & Vascular Institute in Baltimore.

Galloway said that minimally-invasive options are also available, and "the long term track record and results are good, generally returning to full activity in 6-8 weeks."

Doctors said that while the signs that an aortic valve needs to be replaced can be subtle, the symptoms worsen as the condition progresses.

"For aortic stenosis, signs of heart failure, fainting, or chest pain signal a bad prognosis without surgery," Brinker said.

Signs of a Heart Valve Problem -- and What to Do About Them

Fortunately, doctors can detect the first signs of this condition with a few simple and painless tests. Some of these tests rely on technology -- for example, an electrocardiogram, or EKG, which detects abnormal electrical activity in the heart, and an echocardiogram, which uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the heart.

Other tests require little more than a stethoscope.

"In the absence of symptoms and with a normal heart exam, EKG and [echocardiogram] are not necessary," said Dr. Cam Patterson, director of the McAllister Heart Institute and chief of cardiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Regardless of the tests that a patient and her doctor choose, however, Walters said the worst thing a woman could do if she feels that she is experiencing heart symptoms is nothing.

"Women tend to ignore symptoms," she said. "Husbands always complain and women send them to the doctor, but they never go themselves."

Walters created "The View" in 1997 and has been a fixture on the ABC daytime talk show since its inception. She served as co-host of ABC News' "20/20" for 25 years and continues to contribute special broadcasts to the network.

Dr. Kelly Kyanko contributed to this report.

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