When you have heart valve disease, it is important to protect yourself from future heart problems, even if your valve has been repaired or replaced with surgery.
Know the type and extent of your heart valve disease
Protect your valve from further damage
Ask your heart valve disease doctor if you are at risk for infective endocarditis. This infection can greatly damage or destroy your heart valves and can be fatal. You require the following steps to prevent endocarditis if you:
- Have had heart valve disease surgery(valve repair or replacement)
- Have had a previous episode of endocarditis
- Have acquired heart disease (such as rheumatic heart disease)
- Have other types of heart valve disease (except mitral valve prolapse without thickening or regurgitation/leaking)
To prevent infective endocarditis:
- Tell all your doctors and dentist you have heart valve disease . You may want to carry a card with this information.
- Call your heart valve doctor if you have symptoms of an infection . Do not wait a few days until you have a major infection to seek treatment. Colds and flus do not cause endocarditis. But infections, which may have the same symptoms (sore throat, general body aches, and fever) do. To be safe, call your doctor.
- Take good care of your teeth and gums . See your dentist for regular visits.
- Always carry your American Heart Association bacterial endocarditis card.
- Take antibiotics before:
- dental procedures
- procedures on the bowel or bladder
- Check with your doctor about the type and amount of antibiotics you should take. Plan ahead to find out what steps you must take before the day of your appointment. Learn more about protection of infection.
Take your medications
- Your medications are used to control your symptoms and help your heart pump blood more efficiently. Some medications may be stopped if you have valve surgery to correct your problem. Others may need to be taken throughout your lifetime.
- Follow your doctor's instructions when you take your medications. It is important to know:
- The names of your medications
- What they are for
- How often and at what times to take your medication.
- Keep a list of your medications and bring them to each doctor visit.
- If you have questions about your medications for heart valve disease, ask your doctor or pharmacist.
Common types of medications and what they do
- Diuretics ("water pills")
- What they do: remove extra fluid from the tissues and bloodstream; lessen the symptoms of heart failure
- What they do: control the heart's rhythm
- What they do: lessen the heart's work. Also encourages blood to flow in a forward direction, rather than backwards through a leaky valve
- ACE inhibitors
- What they do: a type of vasodilators used to treat high blood pressure and heart failure
- Beta blockers
- What they do: treat high blood pressure and lessen the heart's work by helping the heart beat slower and less forcefully. Used to decrease palpitations in some patients
- Anticoagulants ("blood thinners")
- What they do: prolong the clotting time of your blood, if you are at risk for developing blood clots on your heart valve. See coumadin for more information
See your cardiologist for regular visits
You will need to schedule regular follow-up appointments with your cardiologist to make sure your heart valves work as they should. Ask your heart doctor how frequent theses should be spaced. Call your doctor sooner if your symptoms become more severe or frequent.
- Schedule regular appointments with your cardiologist (even if you have no symptoms).
- Your appointments may be spaced once a year or more often, if your doctor feels you need to be followed more closely.
- Your appointments should include a medical exam, and diagnostic studies (such as an echocardiogram) may be repeated at regular intervals.
- Call your doctor sooner if your symptoms worsen or become more severe or frequent.
- If you ARE having symptoms, or if diagnostic tests show your valve disease is severe, your doctor may suggest you undergo an invasive procedure or heart surgery.
Medications, surgery and other treatments will not fully cure your heart valve disease. You will always need lifelong medical follow-up to make sure your heart valves work as they should.
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