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VCU Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Department of Surgery, Virginia Commonwealth University VCU Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery

VCU Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery

Thoracic aortic disease program

Living with Aortic Disease

Lifelong medical treatment and lifestyle changes are necessary both prior to and after surgery. Patients need to consider the following points. A candid conversation with your physician about your personal situation is recommended.

Blood Pressure

Keep your systolic blood pressure (top number) in a range of 105 to 110 when not exercising.

Blood pressure medications should include beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, and, if necessary, calcium channel blocker. Patients who retain water may also need a low-dose diuretic.

A home blood pressure machine is needed to monitor blood pressure on a daily basis. The digital type with an arm cuff is simple and convenient. Check its accuracy by taking it to a doctor's office to compare readings with their equipment.

Keep a daily record of your blood pressure. Monitoring it twice a day for seven days will help fine tune the medication dosages and optimize blood pressure control.

Exercise and Diet

Maintain an active lifestyle, including cardiovascular exercise. Guidelines should be discussed with your physician. Avoid strenuous activities such as heavy weightlifting.

Adopt a balanced low fat, low carbohydrate diet that is high in fiber and protein.

The bodies' muscle to fat ratio is very important to overall health. A heavy but muscular person is healthier than a thin individual who has lost muscle as a result of poor nutrition and inactivity.

Blood pressure and blood sugar levels are more easily managed when the muscle-to-fat ratio is under control. Low body fat also helps strengthen the immune system and boosts post-surgical healing.

Smoking

Smoking is a major risk factor. Secondhand smoke is also harmful.

Cocaine

Using cocaine, even once, creates the risk of life-threatening aortic dissection or rupture, and can make systolic blood pressure soar.

Blood Sugar

If you are a diagnosed diabetic consult an endocrinologist.

Patients benefit from maintaining appropriate blood sugar levels. Healing is quicker and the risk of infection is reduced after surgery when the blood sugar is kept between 90 and 110.

Dental Hygiene

Patients who develop dental or gum infections are at higher risk of developing an infection of the heart valves (endocarditis) and graft infection.

Daily dental and gum care is essential, as are regular dental checkups. Speak with your doctor about the need for antibiotics prior to teeth cleaning and other dental work.

Maintaining a Positive Outlook

Focus on personal goals and responsibilities. Enjoy hobbies and leisure activities with friends and family.

Assuming no other conditions are present to restrict your activity, avoid long periods of boredom and inactivity. Understand your treatment plan and follow it. Do not feel victimized. Working with your healthcare team, there is a great deal you can do to maximize the quality of your life.

When surgery is necessary, the most recent advances in thoracic aortic surgery are available. Following surgery, ongoing medical care, diet, lifestyle choices and a positive attitude are key to recovery.

Screening Family Members

All first-degree relatives (i.e., parents, siblings and children) of those with bicuspid aortic disease, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Marfan syndrome and other connective tissue disorders should have a complete aortic checkup.

These conditions may skip generations. Nephews, nieces and grandchildren should also be advised to have a complete aortic checkup.


 

For additional information or to schedule an evaluation with
the Thoracic Aortic Surgery Program at VCU Pauley Heart Center
contact us at (804) 828-4641 or write to us at:

Thoracic Aortic Disease Program
MCV Campus West Hospital 7th Floor
1200 East Broad Street
P.O. Box 980068
Richmond, VA 23928