Managing heart valve disease: Lifestyle changes key

After you've been diagnosed with heart valve disease, your doctor will likely suggest you make some healthy lifestyle changes. Change can be hard. But by making these changes, you'll help keep your heart as healthy as possible.

Tips for a healthier life

After a heart valve disease diagnosis, your doctor may suggest that you:

Eat a healthy diet

  • Eat a heart-healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, fat-free or low-fat dairy foods, whole grains, lean meats, and nuts.
  • Cut down on salt, added sugars, and saturated and trans fat in your diet.
  • Limit how much alcohol you drink. Generally women should avoid having more than one drink a day, and men should avoid having more than two drinks a day.

Stay active

  • Aim for about 30 minutes or more of physical activity a day, such as brisk walking, biking or swimming. The types of activities you can do depend on the severity of your heart valve disease. You can even count the time you spend walking around the grocery store and across the parking lot, or going up and down a flight of stairs — every bit of activity adds up!
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Aim to keep a healthy weight or lose weight if you're overweight. Use a healthy diet and exercise to do so.

Manage your stress

  • Manage your stress through relaxation techniques such as meditation and deep breathing. It may be helpful to see a counselor.
  • Spend time with and talk to friends and family to manage stress and get social support. Ask for help if you need it, such as asking a friend to pick up groceries or help with yardwork.
  • Consider joining a support group of other people who have heart valve disease.
  • Get enough sleep. Most adults need about seven to eight hours of sleep.

Quit smoking

  • Don't smoke. Quit smoking if you smoke. Smoking can cause a faster heart rate and higher blood pressure. It can also increase the chance of heart disease and heart attack.

Make it a habit

A healthy lifestyle is built on one choice at a time. Try to think up ways to fold healthy changes into your daily routine, so that they become habits. For example, you could choose to add a banana to your breakfast instead of your usual glass of sweetened fruit juice. You could skip the chips at lunch and get that crunch from an apple instead. Or go for a walk after dinner instead of sitting down to watch television. Join a tai chi or yoga class to reduce stress and connect with others.

Before you know it, you'll be on your way to living a healthy lifestyle for you and your heart.

Oct. 01, 2019 See more In-depth