A person with a bicuspid aortic valve can support their heart health by maintaining a nutritious diet, getting enough appropriate exercise, and taking steps to manage their condition.

A bicuspid aortic valve (BAV) is a congenital heart condition that can strain the heart and increase the risk of certain health complications.

A person with a BAV can live a healthy life. However, the condition can cause severe symptoms and may increase the risks of certain health conditions. Following a lifestyle that prioritizes heart health can help someone manage BAV.

This article looks at what foods and exercises a person with a BAV needs to avoid, how to manage a BAV, and when to contact a doctor.

A person with a bicuspid aortic valve doing gentle exercise. -3Share on Pinterest
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A person can help manage a bicuspid aortic valve by maintaining heart-healthy lifestyle habits and receiving medical treatment.

Lifestyle habits that promote heart health include:

There is currently no medical treatment that can prevent or slow the progression of BAV into aortic stenosis or aortic regurgitation.

Medication may help manage the symptoms of the condition. A doctor may prescribe:

If BAV becomes severe or complications occur, a person may require surgery. This involves surgeons either repairing or replacing the aortic valve.

Eating certain foods, especially in excess, can contribute to heart health issues.

Adding extra strain to a heart with a BAV can further increase a person’s risk of health complications, such as heart disease, aortic regurgitation, and aortic valve stenosis.

A person with a BAV needs to limit or avoid:

  • High sodium foods: A diet high in salt can increase blood pressure. High blood pressure, which occurs when the pressure of blood in the arteries and blood vessels is too high, can affect heart function. It is also a major risk factor for heart disease.
  • Saturated fats: Eating foods high in saturated fats can contribute to high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. LDL cholesterol causes a buildup of plaque in the arteries, which can lead to heart disease and other health complications. High LDL cholesterol may also contribute to the progression of diseases relating to BAV.
  • Added sugars: Added sugars may increase levels of a type of fat called triglyceride in the blood. Higher levels of triglycerides could reduce blood flow to the heart.
  • Ultra-processed foods: Processed foods, such as processed meats, baked goods, and ready meals, could increase the risk of heart health problems. Processed foods may affect heart health by altering the concentrations of lipids in the blood, increasing blood pressure, and contributing to inflammation and obesity.

Exercise can help improve heart function and help a person maintain a moderate weight, which contributes to heart health.

However, an individual with a BAV needs to avoid intense exercise, which could add excessive strain to the heart.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), people with congenital heart issues need to avoid vigorous-intensity exercise and opt for moderate-intensity exercise instead.

The AHA also advises against a weightlifting breathing technique called the Valsalva maneuver. This technique involves bearing down against a closed throat and may excessively stress the heart.

People with a BAV also need to avoid:

  • Isometric exercises: These involve contracting the muscles and holding the body in one position for an extended period. Examples of isometric exercises include planking and wall sits.
  • Powerlifting: This sport involves attempting to lift the maximum possible weight for one repetition each of a deadlift, a bench press, and a back squat.

A person needs to contact a doctor if they experience signs, symptoms, or complications of BAV, such as aortic stenosis or aortic regurgitation.

Below are the answers to some frequently asked questions about BAV.

How do I know if my bicuspid aortic valve is getting worse?

A person with BAV needs to attend regular checkups with a cardiology specialist to monitor their condition. They also need to track their symptoms to assess whether the BAV is progressing.

What are some bicuspid aortic valve symptoms?

A person may not experience any symptoms of a BAV. If symptoms occur, they can include:

  • chest pain
  • fatigue
  • shortness of breath
  • heart failure
  • fainting

Bicuspid aortic valve (BAV) is a congenital heart condition that can progress to severe symptoms and complications over time. There is no cure for BAV, but lifestyle habits that prioritize heart health can help someone manage the condition.

A person with BAV can help manage their condition by avoiding foods that contribute to heart damage and strain, such as products that contain excess salt, added sugars, and saturated fats.

Individuals with BAV need to get regular, moderate-intensity exercise. However, they also need to avoid strenuous activity that could cause further heart strain.

A person with BAV should contact a doctor if their symptoms progress.

People with BAV can typically live full, healthy lives with appropriate medical treatment and a heart-healthy lifestyle.