Until 1960, many people born with moderate and complex forms of Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) didn’t reach adulthood. As people who suffer from CHD age, they may develop health problems that are unique and require special treatment. Consequently, it’s vital that individuals with CHD strive for a healthy balance in their lives. Adults with moderate or complex CHD benefit from regular evaluation at an Adult Congenital Heart Center, especially if they have been out of cardiac care for many years.
If you have heart disease, realize that above all, you are a success and a survivor. Still, living with chronic illness can take a serious toll on you, emotionally and physically. It’s important that you stay as educated and informed about your heart disease as possible.
Regular check-ups with your ACHD doctor may help recognize any issues or problems early before symptoms develop. Be sure to accept help when you need it, and share you healthcare plans with your friends and family. They, along with your doctors and nurses, can help you to continue your success.
Bear in mind that there are ways for you to stay healthy and live better. Your risks of developing problems with both the heart and other organs may be higher when you have CHD, so it’s crucial for you to maintain a healthy weight, follow a heart-healthy diet plan, stay as active as you can, and have your blood pressure and any needed blood work checked regularly. Your ACHD doctor can devise a plan specific to your needs.
Here are a few more tips that will help to keep you and your heart healthier:
- Get a flu vaccine each year if your doctor advises
- Consider a pneumonia vaccine if your doctor advises
- Take good care of your teeth, take antibiotics before dental visits if your doctor advises you to;
- Discuss any non-cardiac surgery (unless it’s an emergency) with your doctor or cardiologist prior to scheduling it
- Ask your doctor about over-the-counter drugs and herbal supplements before taking any
- Avoid smoking and smokeless tobacco
- Some young adults with CHD need to limit alcohol and caffeine in their diets; check with your doctor to see how alcohol and caffeine may affect you
- Avoid all illicit drugs
Additionally, I highly recommend The Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) diet plan—a low saturated fat, low cholesterol diet that helps to reduce your total blood cholesterol as well as your LDL cholesterol levels. The lower your cholesterol levels, the lower your risk is for coronary heart disease. The TLC plan provides fats, cholesterol, carbohydrates, fiber, and protein throughout your daily calorie intake. If your doctor has recommended a low sodium diet, you should follow those guidelines in addition to heart healthy choices with the TLC diet.
Staying physically active is also a key component to maintaining heart health. It’s quite possible to stay active through leisure activities, such as golf, dancing, swimming, cycling, and walking. If you’d like to adopt a more strenuous exercise routine, be sure to discuss it with your doctor first.
Last, when you have CHD, it’s crucial to consider physical limitations when it comes to your career. Learn what your limitations are by speaking with your doctor, and be sure to understand and keep up with your healthcare insurance coverage.
As medical professionals, we’ve learned from history and experience, and are able to help you to be prepared for issues as well as triumphs. However, no one can be sure of what the future holds—it’s important to be prepared and continue to enjoy each and every success. Be proud of what you’ve accomplished so far, and continue to strive to maintain balance among work and play.
About Teresa Lyle, APRN:
Teresa received her Graduate degree from Emory University (Master of Nursing, Adult Health– Critical Care), and attained her Post-Graduate degree from University of Texas at Arlington (Pediatric Nurse Practitioner). Her clinical interests include ACHD, cardiac surgery, transition from pediatric to adult CHD care, pregnancy and planning in women with complex CHDs, and Eisenmenger syndrome/pulmonary hypertension.