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What Factors Affect Life Expectancy After a Heart Transplant?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 30 August 2016
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A heart transplant may be required when a person's heart is no longer able to pump enough blood to other organs of the body. The transplant consists of the damaged heart being surgically removed and then replaced with a healthy heart obtained from an organ donor. There are several factorsthat may affect the patient's life expectancy after a heart transplant. Some of these factors include lifestyle choices such as alcohol or tobacco use, whether the patient maintains a healthy weight, and getting the proper amounts of exercise to keep the new heart healthy. It is also important for the transplant patient to take all medications exactly as prescribed by the treating physician.

Certain lifestyle choices can have a significant impact on life expectancy after a heart transplant. Patients who have this type of surgery are strongly encouraged to avoid all tobacco usage. Doctors will usually suggest that the patient limit or completely avoid alcoholic beverages. Caffeine usage will often need to be reduced in order to avoid over-stimulation of the new heart. The transplant patient will also need to maintain a healthy weight in order to prevent added stress on the transplanted organ.

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Exercise can help to promote healing and increase life expectancy after a heart transplant. Studies have shown that adopting a healthy exercise program as soon after the transplant as possible may help the patient to heal faster from the surgery and may help improve mood and the patient's overall outlook on life. In order to improve the odds of a longer life expectancy after a heart transplant, the patient should consult with a doctor for assistance in developing a healthy exercise program designed for the individualized needs of the patient.

Preventing organ rejection is a major factor in life expectancy after a heart transplant. In some cases, the body's immune system will recognize the transplanted organ as being a foreign invader. When this occurs, the body may begin to attack the new organ. This can lead to organ rejection, meaning that the new heart will not be able to sustain the life of the patient. While organ rejection cannot always be prevented, there may be ways to help reduce the chances of this happening.

Following heart transplant surgery, the patient will have to take medications every day for the remainder of life in an attempt to prevent organ rejection. It is extremely important to take this medication exactly as prescribed by a physician. Any symptoms such as fever, chest pain, or difficulty breathing should be reported to a doctor right away, as these may be possible signs of rejection. With prompt treatment, complete rejection may be able to be avoided.

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