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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) less than 130mmHg 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 helpful 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 body's 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 is a major risk factor for all cardiovascular diseases. Secondhand smoke is also harmful.

Cocaine and illicit stimulants

  • Using cocaine, even once, creates the risk of life-threatening aortic dissection or rupture, and can make systolic blood pressure soar.  Other illicit substances that act as stimulants are equally as dangerous.

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 in a normal range.

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. 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. To learn more about the Center for Marfan Syndrome and Connective Tissue Disorders: A Division of Center of Aortic Disease at Northwell Health, click here

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

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