Healthy living is key after a diagnosis of heart valve disease

February 27, 2023

Manage your blood pressure:  If you have heart valve disease, keeping your blood pressure at a healthy level will put less stress on your heart and valves. Knowing your numbers is the first step. Check with your healthcare provider to find out your blood pressure measurement. Keep your diet low in salt and include a variety of different foods in your diet. Ask your pharmacist about getting regular blood pressure checks or consider a home blood pressure measurement device. If you need medication to control your blood pressure, make sure you take it as prescribed.

Know and manage your blood cholesterol: Cholesterol is a waxy substance that travels through your blood. Your body needs and makes cholesterol to build healthy cells, but you also get it from foods you eat. Too much cholesterol can cause your arteries to narrow, and increase your risk of heart disease, having a heart attack or a stroke or developing diabetes. But high cholesterol is often preventable and treatable.

Steps to keep your cholesterol levels low

Knowing the facts and knowing your numbers are two key steps to managing your cholesterol. Here are other steps you can take to make sure you’re on track with your cholesterol:

• Talk to your health care provider at your next appointment about cholesterol and your health;

• Make a list of questions you would like to ask your health care provider. These could include: How often should my cholesterol be checked? What is my current cholesterol measurement? What is a healthy level for me? Do I need to take medications? What can I do to keep my cholesterol level healthy?  

• If you have a family history of high cholesterol, make sure your healthcare practitioner is aware; you may need to have more frequent cholesterol checks.

• Depending on your situation, you may need to take cholesterol-lowering medications; and

• Make heart-healthy choices like following a healthy diet and getting regular exercise.

Quit Smoking: If you smoke, kicking the habit is one of the most important things you can do to improve your heart health, as well as reduce your risk for cancer and other conditions. It’s not easy to quit, but there are tools and resources  to help you be successful, even if you’ve tried before and didn’t succeed.

Exercise regularly: Regular physical activity can improve your fitness, your energy and your overall quality of life. If you are not currently active, talk to your health care provider first. If regular exercise is new to you, choose an activity you enjoy and start slowly. Walking is an excellent place to start.

Keep a healthy weight: When you carry too much fat around the middle of your body, you place yourself at higher risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart failure and stroke. But did you know losing just 5% of your body weight can lower your risk of heart disease? Losing weight is not easy, but small changes can make a big difference, like eating fewer calories, getting enough sleep, limiting alcohol, and exercising more. Visit the Dietitians of Canada’s cooking tips for heart health.

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