Lifestyle Tips After TAVR

By

Jennifer Larson

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When you have aortic stenosis, your doctor may tell you that it’s time for surgery. Aortic stenosis occurs when the valve on the aorta, which is the primary artery leading out of the heart, doesn’t function normally any longer. The valve is supposed to allow blood to flow from the heart to the body. But as we age, the aorta can begin to become thicker and stiffer. And when the valve stops working normally or the aortic valve opening narrows, it can force the heart to strain and work too hard to provide enough blood to the rest of the body.

The best solution is to replace that valve. But open heart surgery can be very risky for many people with heart problems, particularly the elderly and other people at elevated risk for complications. Fortunately, many people now have the option for a minimally invasive procedure called transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR).

Make cardiac rehab your priority.

Chances are, your doctor opted to perform a TAVR procedure instead of a traditional valve replacement because the open-heart procedure was deemed to be too risky for you. In the immediate days and weeks after the procedure, you’ll likely to be occupied with taking care of your incision, attending follow-up visits and taking it easy so you don’t overdo it and strain your heart.

But after a while, you’ll begin transitioning to the “new normal” of your life. And it can be a very full and satisfying life if you take a few important recommendations to heart. To accomplish that, cardiac rehab should be at the very top of your “Must Do” list after your surgery.

You will probably have some serious ground to cover to help build yourself back up. Under the careful guidance of professionals, you’ll spend about three months learning how to make some significant lifestyle changes that will reduce your chances of having heart problems in the future.

Start a heart-healthy diet STAT.

If you haven’t already switched to a heart-healthy diet, now’s the time. In fact, the American Heart Association says a good diet is one of your most effective weapons in fighting heart disease.

Here are some things you can do to insure you’re eating what your heart needs:

  • Eat lots of fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains, and nuts and legumes. As a bonus, you’ll get lots of healthy fiber from many of these foods.

  • Drastically reduce the amount of saturated fat and trans fats you consume.

  • Cut back on the sugar in your diet.

  • Limit the amount of salt and sodium you’re consuming, which will help you avoid retaining excess water, which will in turn reduce your blood pressure and the wear-and-tear on your heart and blood vessels.

  • Embrace lean meats like fish and poultry and low-fat or fat-free dairy products such as low-fat yogurt.

  • Check with your doctor before taking any supplemental calcium.

Grocery shop for your heart.

Now that you know what to eat, it’s time to focus on the best way to shop for it. How to approach grocery shopping for your heart-healthy diet:

  • Make a list—and stick to it.

  • Don’t go to the store hungry. Eat a healthy snack beforehand, which will help you avoid the impulse to splurge on something you’re better off avoiding.

  • Scrupulously read the labels on prepackaged foods so you know exactly what you’re getting—and you can avoid the bad stuff.

  • Try to shop the perimeter of the grocery store, where they stock the healthier foods like produce and dairy. The prepackaged, processed foods tend to be grouped together in the center aisles.

  • Check out your local farmer’s market for fresh, local produce.

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: May 11, 2016

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Medical References

  1. After Your Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR). Vanderbilt Health. http://www.vanderbilthealth.com/includes/healthtopics/calc.php?ContentTypeId=3&ContentId=90094&Categ...
  2. Aortic Valve Replacement. Johns Hopkins Medicine. http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/heart_vascular_institute/conditions_treatments/treatments/valve_aorti..
  3. At Home After Your TAVR: Self-care and what to expect. University of Washington Medical Center. https://healthonline.washington.edu/document/health_online/pdf/At-Home-After-Your-TAVR.pdf
  4. Heart Valve Surgery Recovery and Follow Up. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/HeartValveProblemsandDisease/Heart-Valve-Surgery-Recov...
  5. Post Surgery Milestones: Managing Your Mood, Expectations and Goals. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/HeartValveProblemsandDisease/Post-Surgery-Milestones-M...
  6. What is TAVR? American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/HeartValveProblemsandDisease/What-is-TAVR_UCM_450827_Article.jsp#.VygHNlgrKUk
  7. What to Expect After Heart Surgery. Society of Thoracic Surgeons. http://www.sts.org/sites/default/files/documents/pdf/whattoexpect.pdf
  8. What To Expect During Cardiac Rehabilitation. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/rehab/during
  9. White T. Easy Does It: AORTIC VALVE REPLACEMENT WITHOUT OPEN-HEART SURGERY GAINS GROUND. Stanford Medicine. Spring 2014. http://sm.stanford.edu/archive/stanmed/2014spring/article6.html

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