Life After Heart Valve Replacement

Heart valve replacement is a serious undertaking, and your body needs time to recover after the procedure. How much time often depends on your condition before replacement and the type of procedure you undergo -- minimally invasive versus open heart surgery.

Dr. Bokhari prefers minimally invasive procedures whenever possible, and is a well-known expert in the field. Whichever method he recommends for your valve replacement, you can expect him to closely monitor your progress after the procedure and provide guidelines for keeping your new valve functioning at peak capacity.

His recommendations are future-focused and centered on living your life to the fullest after valve replacement, and he’s happy to share a few of those guidelines here.

What should I expect immediately after heart valve replacement?

Most patients can expect to spend time in the intensive care unit (ICU) after the procedure so that we can carefully monitor how your new valve is functioning and how your body is responding. You’ll likely sleep through your ICU visit though.

You can expect to stay in the hospital for two to five days overall. During that time, we’ll get you up and moving so you can begin to rebuild your strength. This may start with short trips to the bathroom and proceed to leisurely strolls in the hallway with a nurse or physical therapist at your side.

I’ll also stop by to see how you’re feeling, leave orders for your care with the hospital staff, and evaluate your progress.

What happens after I leave the hospital?

It can take several weeks after valve replacement for you to feel normal again. Hopefully, you’ll feel much better than normal, especially if you were previously experiencing fatigue, shortness of breath, and other symptoms associated with a faulty heart valve.

Before you leave the hospital, we’ll take plenty of time to explain what to expect during this portion of your healing process. You’ll also receive specific instructions regarding your medications, physical activity, diet, and other crucial details pertaining to valve replacement.

My best medical advice for a successful outcome after heart valve replacement includes:

Even after you’ve recovered and are, perhaps, feeling like a new person, expect to return for periodic checks of your valve and heart health. It’s important to keep these appointments so I can identify any problems early, when they’re usually easiest to treat.

Exercising with your new heart valve

While the goal of valve replacement is to improve blood flow and improve your heart’s health, it’s a muscle that requires conditioning to stay strong. Every case is unique, and I may request certain activity restrictions even after you’ve healed, but I typically recommend you begin an exercise program that’s designed to strengthen your heart.

Exercise routines to consider include:

Many gyms also have heart conditioning programs. Look for one that’s affiliated with trusted medical resources and has well-trained instructors who are familiar with folks recovering from heart surgery. Before you begin, however, discuss your options with me so I can review your choice.

It’s important to pace yourself, starting slowly and increasing your level of exercise gradually over time. I also recommend you:

Odds are you’ve heard about the value of exercise before, and for good reason. Routine physical activity that’s appropriate for your age and stage of life is one of the best things you can do for your heart and overall health.

Eating for your heart

It’s hard to calculate the many benefits your heart gains when you make it a habit to choose healthy fare over convenient or processed foods such as chips, fries, and sugary snacks. Apple slices with a smear of peanut butter, for instance, are sweet, crunchy, and savory all at once and won’t stress your heart’s health.

Other heart-healthy foods include:

If you’re not sure about how to prepare heart-healthy foods or would like added support in this new adventure, consider meeting with a registered dietitian for guidance and tips on menu planning and meal preparation.

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