To improve your quality of life if you have mitral valve regurgitation, your doctor may recommend that you:
- Check your blood pressure regularly. Control of high blood pressure is important if you have mitral valve regurgitation.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet. Food doesn't directly affect mitral valve regurgitation. However, developing coronary artery disease — blockages of arteries that feed your heart muscle — may lead to heart attacks with further weakening of the heart muscle. To follow a heart-healthy diet, eat low-fat foods and check your cholesterol levels regularly. Also, your doctor may suggest that you limit your salt intake. If you have any questions about your diet, ask to talk to a dietitian.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight may make you short of breath and may complicate heart surgery if you ever need it. Keep your weight within a range recommended by your doctor.
- Cut back on caffeine. Irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias) may occur in people with mitral valve regurgitation. Arrhythmias may worsen if you have too much caffeine. Ask your doctor about drinking beverages with caffeine, such as coffee and soft drinks.
- Cut back on alcohol. Heavy alcohol use can cause arrhythmias and can make your symptoms worse. Excessive alcohol use can also cause cardiomyopathy, a condition of weakened heart muscle that often leads to mitral regurgitation. If you have mitral valve regurgitation, ask your doctor about the effects of drinking alcohol.
- Exercise. Physical activity helps to keep your body fit and may also help you to recover faster if you ever need heart surgery. Your doctor usually gives you guidelines for your exercise program. Don't stop exercising if you've received a diagnosis of mitral valve regurgitation. If you find that you're unable to do things because of mitral valve regurgitation, talk to your doctor.
- See your doctor regularly. Establish a regular evaluation schedule with your cardiologist or primary care provider.
If you're a woman with mitral valve regurgitation, discuss family planning with your doctor before you become pregnant, because your heart works harder during pregnancy. How a heart with mitral valve regurgitation tolerates this extra work depends on the degree of regurgitation and how well your heart pumps. Should you become pregnant, your cardiologist and obstetrician need to evaluate you throughout your pregnancy, labor and delivery, and after delivery.
Sep. 15, 2011
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