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. You may take medicine to lower blood pressure or help relieve symptoms. If the disease becomes severe, you may choose 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 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?
- Be safe with medicines. Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you're having a problem with your medicine.
- Call your doctor if you have new symptoms or your symptoms get worse.
- Eat heart-healthy foods. These include vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, lean meat, fish, and whole grains. Limit sodium, alcohol, and sugar.
- Be active. Ask your doctor what type and level of exercise is safe for you.
- Don't smoke.
- Stay at a healthy weight. Lose weight if you need to.
- Manage other health problems. If you think you may have a problem with alcohol or drug use, talk to your doctor.
- Get vaccinated against COVID-19, the flu, and pneumonia.
- 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.
- 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 now or seek immediate medical care if:
- You have new symptoms or your symptoms get worse.
- You have new or increased shortness of breath.
- You are dizzy or lightheaded, or you feel like you may faint.
- You have sudden weight gain, such as more than 2 to 3 pounds in a day or 5 pounds in a week. (Your doctor may suggest a different range of weight gain.)
- You have new or 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 if you have any problems.
Where can you learn more?
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