If you’ve been diagnosed with heart valve disease, there are recommended, life-long precautions – even if your valve has been repaired or replaced. Heart valve disease often changes over time and can progress quickly with serious consequences.
It is imperative that you pursue good follow-up care with your doctor. That should include:
- Regular physical exams to rule out heart mumurs or abnormal heart rhythms
- Regular EKGs to detect thickening heart muscle, enlargement of the heartor changes in heart rhythm
- Chest x-rays, CT scans, or MRIs to look at the heart and lungs
- Additional procedures like echo cardiograms or cardiac catheterization (coronary angiogram) to look for changes in valve structure, heart muscle strength (ejection fraction) or function
Your doctor will recommend specific tests and schedule of check-ups to monitor your unique condition. You should also take certain precautions, like:
Infection prevention. Early treatment of strep throat infection can reduce your chances contracting rheumatic fever, which can cause your heart valves to thicken. Also, if you have heart valve disease and need to undergo surgical or dental procedures, talk to your doctor or dentist about taking antibiotics before the procedure. The American Heart Association recommends antibiotics before dental procedures for people who have undergone valve surgery. That is to prevent bacteria from traveling to your heart valve and triggering infection.
Medications. If your heart valve disease is not yet serious enough to require surgery or if you have already had surgery, your physician may prescribe medication as part of your wellness plan. Common medications for managing valve disease and providing symptom relief include:
- Diuretics, drugs that help reduce fluid accumulation in your body by increasing fluid loss through urination;
- Blood thinners, which help prevent blood clots and reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke; such as coumadin
- Drugs to control a rapid or irregular heartbeat, for example atrial fibrillation (AFib) requires medications to control the heart rate (beta-blockers, or calcium channel blocker)
- Blood pressure medications to relief a heart overworked by the malfunctioning valve such as beta-blockers
Exercise and diet. Talk to your doctor about appropriate dietary changes and levels of exercise.
- Exercise keeps the body strong and can help reduce high cholesterol and blood pressure, which are risk factors for heart disease.
- Maintaining a healthy weight is important for cardiac health.
- Restricting your intake of salt can also help lessen fluid retention and improve symptoms related to heart valve disease.
- If you are on medication called coumadin, you need to watch for green leafy vegetables since they are rich in vitamin K and interact with the metabolism of the medication. green leafy vegetables include such as brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, or broccoli.
Take good care of your teeth.
When you have valve disease, bacteria from your mouth and gums can travel through the bloodstream and enter the heart, causing infective endocarditis. It's more important than ever to floss and brush your teeth daily and see a dentist regularly when you have valve disease.