Living with valvular heart disease

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Patients with valvular heart disease are advised to follow a series of actions to minimize the symptoms associated with the disease:

Food pyramid

Eat a healthy diet, low in fat and salt.

Scale with a correct weight

Stay a suitable weight, avoid obesity. Control your weight on a regular basis.

Man running; regular physical exercise

Avoid a sedentary lifestyle, stay physically active.

Cigarette crossed out on a "no smoking" poster

Do not smoke.

Measuring blood pressure with a barometer

Control your blood pressure.

Correct blue and green pharmaceuticals

Take the medication rigorously, in the prescribed dose and at the time scheduled.

Two beer mugs crossed out indicating that alcohol is forbidden.

Limit alcohol consumption (wine with meals or beer) and avoid stronger spirits.

Drink can with a straw

Avoid commercial soft drinks because of their high sugar content.

Beer mug and joint crossed out; no drug consumption

Do not take illegal drugs.

Toothbrush, toothpaste and shiny teeth

Practice proper oral hygiene (to avoid possible infections that may affect the heart valves). Have regular dental check-ups.

Woman seated in Yoga position

Avoid stress as far as possible.

Person sleeping in bed

Make sure you get enough rest (both the number of hours and the quality of your sleep).

Person holding hand to chest, with chest pain or chest pain

Know the warning signs and when you should go to ER: chest pain, palpitations, fast and/or uncontrolled heart rate, swollen legs (oedema), unjustified weight gain over a few days that could indicate fluid retention, dizziness or loss of consciousness, shortness of breath/choking (dyspnoea).

Smiling woman for being very successful in social networks

Stay socially active. Do not stay cooped up at home.

Phone call

If you have any questions, ask your health professionals.

Healthy living

Cigarette crossed out on a "no smoking" poster

Tobacco. This is one of the most important risk factors that you should avoid. If you are a smoker, your priority should be to quit.

Two beer mugs crossed out indicating that alcohol is forbidden.

Alcohol. Minimise your intake

Scale with a correct weight

Obesity. Stay at the proper weight to feel better.

Woman swimming

Sedentary lifestyle. Be physically active.

Woman seated in Yoga position

Stress. Control your stress as much as possible, both at work and at home.

Nutrition

Food pyramid

Diet low in salt and saturated fat. It is essential to eat a healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, olive oil (virgin olive oil if possible), cereals (bread, pasta, rice, etc.), legumes, nuts, more fish than meat (preferably white meat like chicken, turkey, and rabbit) and, if you have no contraindications, you may drink a glass of wine (red is better) with lunch and dinner.

Plate with food crossed out

Eat oven-cooked, grilled or boiled food whenever possible. Avoid fried foods.

Garlic and onion

Other types of seasoning. As an alternative to salt you can use lemon juice, vinegar, herbs, garlic, and pepper.

Cake crossed out indicating that sugar consumption is prohibited

Avoid pre-packaged meals, industrial pastries, sweets and preserves.

Brik, milk

Dairy products should be skimmed or semi-skimmed.

Bottle of water

Hydration. The best thing to drink is water.

Person at table eating

Eat slowly. Chew well and, if possible, with other people.

Food pyramid

Personalised diets. The diet should take into account whether there are associated diseases such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, or others.

Exercise

Physical activity is positive both physically and psychologically. It must be done taking the phase of the disease into consideration, since a more advanced stage involves greater limitations. In the initial stages, you can do sport, after consulting your health professionals, as long as it is not too strenuous or results in symptoms like chest pain, palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, and so on. The simplest and most beneficial activity is walking (every day for about an hour). Other exercise can include cycling, rowing, swimming, and Nordic walking.

Rest well

Proper rest is fundamental for feeling good. The number of hours of sleep needed varies from person to person, and as you age you need less sleep. Around seven hours of sleep is recommended.

Sex

Keep in mind the fact that having sex uses as much energy as climbing two flights of stairs without getting tired and without any chest pain (angina). Many drugs can interfere with sexuality (beta blockers, calcium antagonists, etc.). If you have any questions, you should consult your healthcare professionals, and never take drugs like Viagra®, or similar, because they can have serious consequences.

Travel

You can travel, although it is recommended to discuss it previously with the cardiologist. If you have to travel to exotic countries, you must take basic hygiene steps (drink only bottled water, even for brushing your teeth; do not drink iced drinks; do not eat raw food; carry mosquito repellents; and make sure all the vaccinations you need are up to date). Mention your trip to your healthcare professional and ensure that sufficient medication is available for the duration of the trip.

Social and emotional support

A good social support network is essential, including family, friends, and colleagues. Social interaction has a positive effect on psychological health. Talking to people who have had similar experiences can be enriching, as can support groups.

Substantiated information by:

Ander Regueiro Cueva
Bárbara Vidal Hagemeijer
Cesar Bernadó
Daniel Pereda

Published: 23 January 2020
Updated: 23 January 2020

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