During normal function of the aortic valve, the aortic leaflets undergo not only cyclic loading and unloading but also cyclic reversal of their curvature. The stresses induced in the leaflet due to these variations have been computed using a new concept based on the structure of the leaflet. Membrane stresses have been related to the pressure difference across the leaflet and bending stresses to the leaflet curvature. Total stresses were obtained by adding the two stresses. Total stresses in bioprosthetic and synthetic leaflets also were computed using the same approach. In systole, the natural leaflet is subjected to much lower total stress than a bioprosthetic or a synthetic leaflet. The natural leaflet is not subjected to compressive stresses during the cardiac cycle, whereas bioprosthetic and synthetic leaflets must sustain compressive stresses during systole. The differences in stress patterns of these leaflets indicate that there is a difference in their longevity.