Feeling Well Long-Term

Treatment checklist
Rehabilitation Checklist

Use our checklist for discussions with your doctor about developing a physical therapy plan after your heart valve replacement.

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Find answers to your questions about heart valve repair and replacement.

Daily Life With Heart Valve Repair or Replacement

If you have recently recovered from heart valve surgery, you may have questions about what you can and cannot do now that you have a repaired or replaced heart valve. As you go back to work and resume your normal activities, it is important that you take steps to maintain and preserve your health.

Your doctor is the best source of information and guidance to determine what is best for you. Here are some general tips that you may find helpful.

Getting active

A well-conditioned heart muscle pumps more effectively. Increasing your physical activity, which can include exercising more often, is an important part of strengthening your heart. Before you begin an exercise program, however, it is important to check with your doctor to see what activity he or she recommends for you, including:

  • What kind of exercise you should do
  • How much exercise you should do
  • When is the best time for you to exercise

In general, consider heart-healthy exercise that you can begin slowly and gently and increase over time. Some great ways to get fit, build endurance and strengthen your heart safely without much expense to you include:

  • Brisk walking
  • Jogging
  • Biking
  • Swimming

Heart healthy exercise tips

As you settle into an exercise routine, consider these tips:

  • Pace yourself and increase activity over time. Give your body a chance to rest as you gradually build your strength.
  • Drink plenty of water before, during and after exercising to stay hydrated.
  • Avoid exercising in extreme conditions like excessive cold, heat or humidity. On hot or cold days, consider walking in a mall rather than outdoors.
  • Take moderately warm showers and stay out of hot saunas after exercising to avoid putting added stress on your heart.
  • Be patient. Your routine is likely to be interrupted sometimes, and when it is, just ease back into it.
  • Monitor your heart rate as you do your heart-healthy exercise to keep track of your exertion level and learn how hard your heart is working.
  • Increase your activity level slowly over time without doing too much—and with your doctor’s approval.

Before you start any exercise program, be sure to speak with your doctor, and make sure to consult with him or her if you experience any problems or if you change your level or kind of exercise.

Heart healthy eating

The foods that you put into your body matter, and have a direct influence on how you feel and the energy level you have. To help you heal and stay healthy, consider adopting an eating plan that follows these tips.

Try to include:

  • Fresh fruits
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Whole grain breads and cereals
  • Lean meats, poultry, fish, beans and fat-free or low-fat milk products
  • Foods rich in complex carbohydrates such as wheat pasta, sweet potatoes and whole-grain breads

Try to avoid:

  • Processed foods, such as chips, sugary cereals and canned foods
  • Fats and oils (use sparingly)
  • Salt

Also, consider grilling, microwaving or baking foods rather than frying them to keep the nutrition without adding extra oil or fat. In addition, make sure not to skip meals; five to six small meals throughout the day help burn fat calories more efficiently than cutting out meals. This also helps you maintain your energy and regulate your cholesterol.

Always consult with your doctor when making any changes to your diet.

Get more tips about healthy eating from the American Heart Association.

Get plenty of rest

Be sure to get enough sleep and take the time to rest during the day, especially if you feel tired during any activity. Being active is important, but it is also important to provide your body with adequate rest.

Keep your appointments

Be sure to schedule regular follow-up appointments with your cardiologist, even if you are feeling fine. Your doctor may advise you that annual visits are sufficient, but be sure to call him or her any time you have questions or experience a health problem.

Stay connected to friends and family

As you continue to heal and live with your treatment, you may benefit from:

  • Listening to the stories of others who have had similar experiences, and sharing your stories with them
  • Letting family and friends know how you are doing and what they can do to help

Healthy connection tips

  • Ask your medical team, hospital or clinic about patient support groups that you can join.
  • Consider volunteering with groups that help others learn about heart valve disease.
  • Give frequent updates to your friends and family; some may be curious, and others will want to help. Some may not know how to react—health concerns can raise confusing emotions. Know that even if they cannot express themselves in the way you want, they likely want to hear from you and support you.