Aortic heart disease is a condition affecting the aortic valve, one of four valves in the heart. Most aortic valve problems are related to stenosis, when the valve becomes rigid an unable to open properly, or regurgitation, when the valve leaflets are loose and do not close properly. Both problems can put a strain on the heart, which makes safe and appropriate exercise an important aspect of treatment.
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If you have mild aortic stenosis but have no symptoms, such as a noticeable decrease in your ability to exercise, you and your physician should monitor your condition annually or as your doctor recommends. More severe aortic stenosis should be treated with valve replacement , as no medications are known to be effective. Aortic valve regurgitation, however, can be treated with medications such as angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers. If you have aortic valve regurgitation, you may not need valve repair or replacement unless the condition causes your left ventricle to expand and become unable to pump blood effectively throughout the body.
Strengthening your cardiovascular system is important regardless of any medical conditions you have, but it's particularly important if you've developed or you were born with some form of heart disease. A sedentary lifestyle will diminish the heart's pumping efficiency. Cedars-Sinai notes that exercise is particularly important in managing aortic heart disease and that "power walks" or brisk walking sessions of 15 to 30 minutes, two or three times a day are strongly recommended.
While a brisk walk may help strengthen the heart's pumping ability, other forms of exercise can be risky. Cedars-Sinai, for example, warns against lifting heavy objects because the added strain on the heart. The Texas Heart Institute also suggests that you not exercise too hard if you have aortic stenosis. Fainting and chest pain can accompany strong exertion.
Exercise won't reverse aortic valve disease, but it can help lower your blood pressure and strengthen your heart to make recovery from surgery easier, CNN reports. Exercise can also help you lose weight, which will further reduce the burden on your heart. It's important to follow your doctor's advice closely and report any change in your condition, such as reduced exercise tolerance, chest pain or difficulty lying flat, which is a sign that your aortic hear disease is worsening.