Aortic Valve Regurgitation: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Normal aortic valve and aortic valve regurgitation

The aortic valve works like a one-way gate. It opens so that blood can leave the heart and flow to the rest of the body. When the heart rests between beats, the aortic valve closes to keep blood from flowing backward into the heart. When the aortic valve does not close properly, some of the blood leaks back (regurgitates) through the valve into the heart. Then your heart has to work harder to pump blood throughout your body.

You can have this condition for many years before it gets worse and you have symptoms. Your doctor will monitor your heart, and you may need to take medicines. If the disease becomes severe, you may need to have surgery to replace the valve.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
  • If you have an artificial valve, you may need to take antibiotics before you have certain dental or surgical procedures. The antibiotics help prevent an infection in your heart called endocarditis.
  • Eat heart-healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, lean meats, and low-fat or non-fat dairy foods. Limit sodium, sugar, and alcohol.
  • Be active. Ask your doctor what type and level of exercise is safe for you. Walking is a good choice. You also may want to swim, bike, or do other activities. Talk with your doctor before doing strenuous activities or weightlifting.
  • Do not smoke. Smoking can make heart problems worse. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • Stay at a healthy weight. Lose weight if you need to.
  • Avoid colds and flu. Get a pneumococcal vaccine shot. If you have had one before, ask your doctor whether you need a second dose. Get a flu vaccine every year. If you must be around people with colds or flu, wash your hands often.
  • Take care of your teeth and gums. Get regular dental checkups. Good dental health is important because bacteria can spread from infected teeth and gums to the heart valves.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have signs of acute aortic valve regurgitation such as:
    • Severe shortness of breath.
    • A rapid heart rate.
    • Light-headedness.
  • You have symptoms of sudden heart failure such as:
    • Severe trouble breathing.
    • Coughing up pink, foamy mucus.
    • A new irregular or rapid heartbeat.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or increased shortness of breath.
  • You are dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you may faint.
  • You have sudden weight gain, such as 1.3 kilograms or more in 2 to 3 days.
  • You have increased swelling in your legs, ankles, or feet.
  • You are suddenly so tired or weak that you cannot do your usual activities.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/ed

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Current as of: January 27, 2016