Six months after aortic valve replacement, many people can return to typical activities like exercising, socializing, and working. However, the recovery timeline can vary from person to person.
One of the heart’s four valves — the aortic valve — allows blood to flow from the largest heart chamber (left ventricle) to the rest of the body. Sometimes, the aortic valve does not work as it should and requires replacement surgery.
A care team can help people understand what to expect right after aortic valve surgery.
This article offers insights and practical tips for ongoing recovery 6 months after aortic valve replacement.
Six months after aortic valve replacement, many people can make significant progress in recovery and return to typical activities. The initial side effects from major surgery may improve, too. However, each person’s recovery timeline differs based on overall health, age, and other underlying medical conditions.
Those who have valve replacement using a minimally invasive transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) procedure tend to experience faster recoveries than those who undergo open heart aortic valve replacement. However, it is common for some people to experience:
- difficulty sleeping
- mood changes
- loss of interest in sex
Cardiac surgery may also come with a risk of developing depression. In fact, about
Establishing a routine that includes choices like nutritious eating, daily exercise, smoking avoidance, socializing, and getting quality sleep reduces the risk of depression. A 2023 study showed that people who adopted favorable lifestyle choices had a
People may need mental health treatment if ongoing symptoms of anxiety or depression interfere with their quality of life 6 months after aortic valve replacement.
The recovery after an aortic valve replacement varies due to several factors, including the type of surgery, a person’s health, age, and other medical conditions. However, by 6 months after aortic valve replacement, many people can do most activities they would like to do, like exercising and working.
The American Heart Association says the typical recovery time ranges from
The organization bases those estimates on open heart surgery, which often involves a longer recovery than minimally invasive TAVR surgery.
Six months after aortic valve replacement, it is essential to keep all recommended medical appointments.
Regular checkups are vital to check how the heart, valve, and kidneys work. These might include:
- blood tests
Often, appointments to check on functions related to aortic valve replacement can continue yearly throughout a person’s lifetime.
Immediately after surgery and for several weeks afterward, doctors often recommend modifying activities like driving, lifting, reaching, and working.
However, there are usually few restrictions at 6 months after aortic valve replacement. People sometimes start feeling better than before surgery thanks to a functioning aortic heart valve.
After aortic valve replacement surgery, there are many ways to support a quicker recovery. A person’s needs depend on their own health history.
Here are some general recovery tips following aortic valve replacement:
- Heart-healthy nutrition: Nutritious eating is important to support faster recovery, regain energy levels, and generally promote a healthy heart. The
American Heart Associationrecommends eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins while limiting foods with saturated fats, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, and sugar.
- Medications: After aortic replacement surgery, doctors often recommend taking daily anti-platelet medications like aspirin on an ongoing basis to reduce the risk of developing blood clots. People with TAVR surgery may also be at risk of developing infective endocarditis, when bacteria enter the bloodstream and infect the heart’s lining or heart valves. So, at dental visits and before any medical procedures, they may need to
take antibioticsas a preventive measure.
- Physical activity: Regular physical activity is important for cardiac and lung health. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least
150–300 minutesof moderately intense activity, like brisk walking, per week. People recovering from aortic valve replacement may wish to consider speaking with a doctor about activity recommendations 6 months after the procedure.
While there are not many restrictions 6 months after aortic valve replacement, continuing to work toward better health is important. Make sure to avoid:
- Smoking: If a person smokes, quitting smoking can be great for improving heart health.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, can increase the risk of bleeding, especially if a person already takes a blood-thinning medication to prevent blood clots. Ask a doctor for recommendations for pain relief.
- Heavy alcohol consumption: Alcohol can interfere with medications, heart health, and prolong recovery. It can
also contributeto strokes, high blood pressure, and irregular heart rate.
While the guidance here is general, a specialist can speak more directly to each person’s specific health recommendations 6 months after aortic valve replacement.
A person can consider asking:
- Should I continue my current medications, or are there any changes 6 months after aortic valve replacement?
- What physical activity is safe for me, and are there any exercises I should specifically avoid?
- Are there any dietary restrictions or recommendations I should follow?
- Do I need any follow-up imaging or tests to check the valve?
- What symptoms should I look for, and when should I get immediate medical attention?
- When should I take antibiotics to prevent endocarditis?
Six months after aortic valve replacement, many people can progress well in their recovery, continuing to build stamina for exercising, working, and socializing. However, recovery differs based on overall health, age, and the surgical procedure.
Recovery tips include adopting a heart-healthy diet, taking prescribed medications, and getting physical activity.
With regular medical checkups to monitor the heart and valve’s performance, there can be a better chance to address any concerns early, improving the chances for a healthier and more active life.