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Congenital Heart Defects in Adults


How can you live well with a congenital heart defect?

Here are some things you can do to help you live well when you have a congenital heart defect.

  • Get regular checkups. Adults who have heart defects need routine checkups. Be sure you have a primary care physician. You might also need to see your cardiologist regularly, such as once a year.
  • Prevent endocarditis. Heart defects can increase your risk of an infection in your heart. Talk to your doctor about your own risk. You may need to take antibiotics before certain dental or surgical procedures to prevent infection. Also, take good care of your teeth. Treat any infections promptly.
  • Be physically active. People with heart defects can be active and get regular exercise. Most don't have to limit exercise. But some may need to restrict the type or intensity of exercise. This depends on the type of the defect and how severe it is. Your doctor can tell you if you should limit activity or sports. But if you do have restrictions, you can still be active and enjoy a healthy lifestyle.
  • Have a heart-healthy lifestyle.
    • Eat a heart-healthy diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and low-fat or non-fat dairy foods.
    • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse advice line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
    • Lose weight if you need to, and stay at a healthy weight.
    • Don't smoke.
    • Manage other health problems such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
    • Get recommended vaccines, such as the influenza (flu) vaccine.
  • Plan for employment. Before you start career planning, talk with your doctor about potential limitations.

Birth control and pregnancy

If you are a woman, carefully think about the type of birth control you use. You will want to use a form that poses the lowest risk to your health. Talk with your family doctor, gynecologist, or cardiologist about the right option for you.

Both women and men with a congenital heart defect need to think about a few things when planning a pregnancy. For example, what is the risk of passing a heart defect to your child? And what are the possible health risks of a pregnancy if you are a woman with a heart defect?


Current as of: January 10, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
John Pope MD - Pediatrics
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Elizabeth T. Russo MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Larry A. Latson MD - Pediatric Cardiology