In every issue of WebMD the Magazine, we ask our experts to answer readers' questions about a wide range of topics. In our September 2011 issue, we gave a reader's question about preventing heart disease to James Beckerman, MD, WebMD's heart health expert.
Q : Heart disease runs in my family. What can I really do now to help prevent it?
A : Cut out these five things to greatly reduce your risk:
Smoking (or hanging around with smokers). Smoking is the most dangerous -- yet most reversible...
After surgery, you will have regular doctor visits to check your heart and your new valve. You will take blood thinning medicine to prevent
blood clots after surgery. And you might need antibiotics to prevent infections.
Keep in mind that an
artificial valve will not work as well as an undamaged natural valve. So even though your heart function is improved, it may not recover to completely
normal levels. If your heart was already severely affected before your surgery,
you may still have symptoms of heart disease.
Regular doctor visits
After surgery, you will have regular checkups so your doctor can check your heart and your heart valve.
It is important to know that you aren't cured after you have had a
valve replacement. You still have a serious heart condition that must be
Your doctor will check for signs of a problem with the valve. This includes checking to make sure the valve is still working well. Tissue valves wear out over time. They last about 10 to 18 years. Mechanical valves typically do not wear out. They usually last 20 years or more. But other problems might happen with a mechanical valve, such as an infection. As long as you have an artificial valve, you and your doctor will need to watch for signs of problems.
Your doctor will check the new valve periodically
for signs that it is wearing out or that there are other problems. Your doctor will ask you how you are feeling and if you have any new symptoms or changes in symptoms. These symptoms are similar to those that
signaled that the original valve was wearing out: a heart murmur and sometimes symptoms such as shortness of breath and fainting. These signs may
be spotted during visits to your doctor.
You might have tests, such as an echocardiogram, to check how well your heart is working. Your doctor will also check for other heart problems.