Cleansing Your Body, Mind & Home After Heart Valve Surgery

By Adam Pick on April 15, 2014

You’re home from the hospital. You have a fixed heart.

Most likely, the doctors who performed your heart valve operation sent you home with a list of do’s and dont’s for the early recovery and beyond. So you know, a healthy diet can speed healing and lessen fatigue, according to the American Heart Association, which also recommends a healthy weight and active mind to decrease the amount of work your heart must do to allow for optimal recovery.


Healthy Lifestyle After Heart Surgery


To clean up your body and mind—and your home, as there are health benefits for doing so—follow your doctor’s advice and these three expert tips:

1. Adopt a Heart-Smart Diet

The AHA recommends a low-fat, low-cholesterol and high-fiber diet. When grocery shopping, add to your cart:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains such as healthy oatmeal or whole oats and brown or wild rice
  • Lean meats, including fish
  • Low-fat dairy products

Limit foods high in saturated fats, sugar, and sodium. Eliminate processed meats from your diet altogether. The AHA also states not to use calcium supplements after valve replacement unless directed so by your doctor. In addition to aiding with recovery and helping to maintain good health, such a diet also helps you achieve and/stay at the right weight for you.


2. Make Heart-Healthy Lifestyle Choices

Your doctor instructed you on the level of physical activity appropriate during the weeks and months following heart valve surgery. In general, the AHA recommends moderate physical activity for 150 minutes a week to improve heart health.

Activities at this level, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, include:

  • Walking at a moderate or brisk pace
  • Recreational swimming or water aerobics
  • Doubles tennis
  • Gardening and moderate housework
  • Yoga

These activities also help with weight management, and combining yoga with meditation ups the physical and mental benefits. Another simple relaxation method—meditation—reduces stress levels, according to the AHA. Stress causes the release of adrenaline, which in turn increases your heart rate and blood pressure, which can put stress on your heart during recovery and beyond.


3. Reduce Home Allergens

Doctors and fellow patients have likely warned you about sneezing and coughing during recovery. It hurts. After all, heart valve surgery typically involves cutting the breastbone or ribs, which you can’t help but move if an allergen enters your airways.



Avoid such pain by reducing allergens in the home. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America offers excellent resources for doing exactly that, including a tip specific to reducing the most common allergen in bedrooms—dust mites. It recommends using allergen-impermeable or plastic covers on all of your pillows, mattresses and box springs. You can find such products at home accessory stores. You also should wash all bedding in 130 degree F. or higher water on a weekly basis to kill dust mites, the AAFA website states.

You also can reduce allergens outside of your home, which proves vital if you plan to use swimming as a physical activity during pollen season. Invest in a high-performance pool cleaner that will suck up the sneeze-inducing debris. You also can have a solar liner installed that not only warms the pool when not in use, but keeps pollen from falling into the water. Opt for a reel system, one that allows you to simply turn a handle—or better yet push a button—to cover and uncover the pool.

I hope this help your early recovery from heart surgery!

Keep on tickin!

Written by Adam Pick
- Patient & Website Founder

Adam Pick, Heart Valve Patient Advocate

Adam Pick is a heart valve patient and author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery. In 2006, Adam founded to educate and empower patients. This award-winning website has helped over 10 million people fight heart valve disease. Adam has been featured by the American Heart Association and Medical News Today.

Adam Pick is a heart valve patient and author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery. In 2006, Adam founded to educate and empower patients. This award-winning website has helped over 10 million people fight heart valve disease. Adam has been featured by the American Heart Association and Medical News Today.

Richard Sly says on April 25th, 2014 at 1:55 pm

With an atrial valve replacement coming up in a couple of weeks I tried remembering my past bypass routine and I’ve forgotten what I did after my bypass 23 years ago other than walk in the hills of Portland Oregon -I don’t recall how soon I could start driving or lifting laundry baskets going up and down a flight of stairs – advice?

Aida says on April 25th, 2014 at 6:41 pm

My husband had mitral valve replacement last year. He could walk up a flight of stairs about a week after the surgery. However he could not lift more than 10 lbs for almost 2 months. He has the traditional OHS. He also didn’t drive until a little after 6 weeks and that was based on his cardiologist clearing him to drive. Remember too that every patient is an individual and recovers at their own pace. Wishing you the best! Hope that helps!

Marty Hubbard says on April 25th, 2014 at 9:35 pm

I am 42 and had mine replaced 6 weeks ago. I think some surgeons differ a little but mine says no driving for 30 days, no exceptions. As far as stairs go, the nurses had me walking up and down stairs while I was still in the hospital. I told them there were stairs in my home, so they wanted to make sure I could handle stairs before I left. Hope this helps!

Richard Sly says on April 26th, 2014 at 1:11 am

Mr Hubbard -or others- what limits did they put on lifting ?-I’m not sure what a laundry basket weighs fully loaded but I’d have to guess 20lbs and because of my wife’s mobility limits (we are both almost 79 and have arthritic issues -mine are minor) I’ve had the job of moving laundry up a flight of stairs for her to fold – do I do it in small increments or do I lift the entire basket -and if so how soon after coming home? -I’m fairly pain tolerant and will try to use as little medications as possible -although I’m not stupid -and I normally play (walk) 9 holes of golf one day a week – 18 is too much (and I get bored after 12 anyway). How long do I wait to play? -Richard Sly

Ralph Doak says on April 26th, 2014 at 1:27 pm

I had my aortic valve replaced six weeks ago and had quite a few restrictions placed one me. 1) No driving for the first 30 days as mentioned above or while on some pain pains. 2) No lifting anything or anyone over 5-10 pounds until the doctors say otherwise. 3) No house work involving pushing or puling a vacuum cleaner (Darn!) 4) Can’t drive a riding lawn mower for 3 months 5) watch your self in the shower – no direct spray on your incision until it heals .6). Be sure to have someone there with you for the first several weeks. You will need to accept the help; like it or not!)

That’s enough for now. These are in no particular order. Like Adam states in his book – Hurry up and Wait!

One helpful tip not mentioned anywhere I can find although I think maybe Adam’s book has it in it; A incision guard by Hall/Med. If you are being or feeling irritated as your breast incision is healing or driving; TRY this product! It is simple and hangs from your neck and keeps your cloths off your incision.

Best to all in their recovery and upcoming surgeries.

SCOTT MILLER says on April 29th, 2014 at 1:04 am

Adam: I had aortic valve replacement, MAZE procedure, ascending aorta replacement w/Dacron, and some sort of appendage tie off. I spent 18 days in hospital at the Houston Methodist DeBakey clinic. I just bought you book from your website? I figured I’d gleaned what I needed to know pre-op from reading your postings, now, post-op I felt I needed the special knowledge and comfort your book will provide. If it’s anything like your website, the book will be a great reference tool for me. (I plan to read it cover to cover first!)
There have been lots of questions on the site regarding longevity following surgery, which I thought was strange since my doctor said I could expect a long life unless I die in an accident, etc. One question — that of returning to martial arts — is something I’ve either missed or not seen on your site. I have a St. Jude’s valve and take daily coumadin and I’ve read that one should avoid contact sports. I’ve read about martial artist who successfully return to the dojo after valve surgery, and I just thought may you could post on this or direct me to some past postings. Hey, I’m not a professional martial artist — I was one a regular club black belt — before symptoms of aortic stenosis forced me to quit. Anyway, thank you Adam for the website and all the info and case studies you post. ////

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