Our bicuspid valves are congenital; normal is tricuspid, but one or two percent of people are born with just two cusps. Most of us live a normal lifespan and have no symptoms and never know it. But the bicuspid valve doesn't open as wide as it should, and so your heart might not move blood to your body as freely as it should, and the opening gets smaller and smaller. This is called aortic stenosis, and when the valve gets tight enough and blood cannot be moved around your body normally, your heart is being damaged and the risk of a heart attack increases. Many doctors use 1 sq. cm. as the rule of thumb for aggressive medical treatment.
NOTE THIS: Even as your valve opening reduces in diameter, it may not necessarily affect your lifestyle until it's dangerously small. You may feel tired or "draggy," or dizzy or short of breath (don't ignore these symptoms!), or you may feel fine. But one can get to the point, still feeling fine, where even a heavy meal or sudden exertion or a few minutes in a hot tub can put too much stress on the valve, causing it to unbalance your heart rhythm and result in sudden death.
So I think the answer is: what you may safely eat, drink, or do may be anywhere from normal amounts to very little, depending on your present condition. A cardiologist can tell you when practicing reasonable moderation in all things is sufficient, and when it isn't. Don't imagine you are well because you aren't on medication--there is no medication for this condition--or because you feel normal--you will feel normal until you are well into the danger zone, and the presence of symptoms may be too late a warning sign.
If your valve opening becomes so small that the risk of surgery is less than the risk of not having surgery, a cardiothoracic surgeon may swap out your aortic valve for one made of metal or a non-metal valve from a pig or cow. If drinking alcohol is important to you, you must make this fact clear to the surgeon in advance, as it will greatly affect the type of valve he will implant and thus your future relationship with alcohol.
My husband has been given a 12 month time
frame to schedule this surgery. That was 3
months ago. He is a heavy drinker, of course
was told to stop. I even had him
Involuntarily placed to dry him out, it's that serious.
He stopped for 2 months before Dx'ed. Now
He is back to drinking & does not see
the serious harm he is doing. How badly does this
effect the time frame?
The drinking isn't going to do him any good, but it's hard to say whether his valve will deteriorate any faster as a direct result of it. I've really never seen that issue discussed anywhere. Heavy drinking will make controlling his blood pressure that much harder, and blood pressure control is very important for aortic aneurysm patients. If the aneurysm is already very large, heavy drinking could conceivably hasten the day when it dissects or ruptures, but then who knows. They say God takes care of children and fools, so perhaps that includes alcoholics who have aneurysms.
If your husband was told to schedule the surgery within the next year, that basically means that he's a candidate for it now, and the doctors are giving him a "deadline" of a year because they don't want him putting it off indefinitely. When they give you a time frame like that, they're saying the patient has ample time to make arrangements for his or her job, kids, finances, etc. Perhaps the doctor knows that your husband has a drinking problem, and perhaps part of what the doctor is hoping for is that your husband will take care of his drinking problem as part of preparing for surgery.
Alcoholism is just so bad for a person's overall health, it's sad to think of someone drinking so heavily that he qualifies for involuntary detox -- BAV or no BAV. Your husband will have to be dried out again to have the surgery. I doubt any surgical team is going to want to be responsible for an open-heart patient who either was drinking heavily right up to the day of the operation, or who was starting to go into withdrawal on the morning of the operation, or who had a drink on the morning or the operation, or any combination of these scenarios.
I'm so sorry for the situation. It's very hard to help someone who doesn't seem to be trying to help himself. I would say your husband's cardiologist and surgeon definitely need to know about the alcohol issue, if they do not know about it already. It will influence treatment decisions. He may need to go directly from the drying-out place to surgery. He will not be a candidate for a mechanical valve, I would not think. He can still have the valve replaced, but it will need to be with a tissue valve.
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