With aortic stenosis, you’ll want to take special care of your heart. The condition, which affects your aortic valve, can make it hard for your heart to pump blood to the rest of your body. And over time, it also injures your heart muscle.
There are steps you can take, in addition to the treatment plan your doctor recommends, to keep your heart as healthy as you can. The goal is to manage the condition well -- and that includes these simple habits.
Keep all your doctor visits. How often you check in with your doctor will depend on the symptoms you have and how far along your condition is. If it’s moderate or severe, you may need to see your cardiologist twice a year. If it’s mild, you may only need a yearly exam and an echocardiogram every 1-2 years.
Take your meds. Follow your doctor’s orders and take any drugs exactly as prescribed. These medicines can help keep your heart from working too hard and can prevent blood clots and infections.
Stay active, safely. Working out is good for your heart, even if you have aortic stenosis. First, check with your doctor about what’s OK to do. Ask if there are any physical activity you should avoid. You’ll also want to know how long your heart rate can safely be raised and if you need to track how high it gets during a workout.
Ask questions. Notice new or changing symptoms? Don’t ignore them. Call your doctor with any concerns that you may have.
Care for your teeth and gums. Aortic stenosis makes infective endocarditis, a severe infection of the heart lining and valves, more likely. It’s caused by bacteria getting into your bloodstream -- even through your gums. To prevent this, brush your teeth twice each day and get regular cleanings. Let your dentist know that you have aortic stenosis.
Don’t put off surgery. Your doctor may advise surgery to repair or replace your damaged valve. While this may sound daunting, most people find that their symptoms improve. If left untreated, your chance of heart failure -- which means your heart doesn’t pump blood as well as it should -- will rise.
Get support. If having a heart condition makes you feel anxious or depressed, talking about these concerns may make you feel better. Confide in loved ones or ask your doctor to refer you to a counselor.
Care for Your Heart
Get to a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese puts a strain on your heart. If most of your fat’s around your waist, rather than your hips, your risk for health problems rises even more. Writing down the foods you eat and when you exercise can help you spot unhealthy patterns you need to change.
Work to manage your stress. Everyone feels anger, sadness, and anxiety from time to time. But if they’re out of control, it can take a toll on your emotional and physical health. You need healthy ways to relax, such as exercise, meditation or prayer, spending time with loved ones, and laughing more. Talking with a counselor can also help.
Watch what you eat. Aim for a diet that’s rich in whole grains, lean protein, fruits and vegetables. Eating more meals at home will help you build better eating habits. When you can, avoid highly processed foods. Many products that come in a bag or box tend to have sodium, sugar, and unhealthy fats that you can do without.
Manage other health conditions. If you also have diabetes and other types of heart disease, make it a priority to take care of those conditions.
Cut down on drinking. Alcohol can raise the amount of some fats in your blood. It can also boost your blood pressure and put more strain on your heart. Limit yourself to no more than one glass of beer or wine a day if you’re a woman, and two glasses if you’re a man.
Quit smoking. The chemicals in tobacco smoke harm your blood vessels and keep your heart from working as well as it should. Talk to your doctor about ways you can break this habit. Many hospitals and local community groups offer free classes or support groups to help you meet your goal. If you’ve tried to quit before, that’s OK. Keep trying, and ask your doctor what you might do differently this time to help this change stick.