Clark Howard says he will ‘feel like a new man’ once he has surgery to repair heart valve

ATLANTA — Channel 2 consumer adviser Clark Howard has been telling us how to save money for more than three decades. Now he has some advice for our health.

On Wednesday, Howard will have surgery for a heart defect.

Ahead of his surgery, Channel 2′s Fred Blankenship spoke with Howard and his team of doctors about the procedure.

Howard told Blankenship that he was born with a heart defect. In recent years that defect worsened.

Howard said if he had not listened to his body and his doctor, his chance of living was almost zero.

He told Blankenship that he is excited about his new lease on life.

“What’s happening in your world health-wise?” Blankenship asked Howard.

“Well, I’m a factory second model. In fact, I have a birth defect in my heart that I’ve known about since I was a teenager. It’s deteriorated over the years; it can deteriorate for many different reasons. But I have a bad aortic valve,” Howard said.

Howard said while the rest of his heart is healthy, a buildup of calcium in his aortic valve is not allowing blood to get to the rest of his body the way it should, leaving him tired and short of breath.


“So, unlike a heart attack where it can acutely come up, valvular disease is really a slow process because it takes years for the calcium to build up on those aortic valve leaflets. And as it does that, the symptoms creep up on you slowly,” Piedmont Health cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Vinod Thourani said.

Howard’s team of doctors at Piedmont decided he is a candidate for something called transcatheter aortic valve replacement, which means instead of opening up his chest, his surgeon would go in through an artery in his groin.

“This goofy device will go all the way through my body in there. And if everything goes right, I have a new lease on life,” Howard said.

“When we do fix his valve, he’ll have instantaneous relief literally overnight. You can tell that you can breathe better. You are able to walk faster, you’re able to go up the stairs again,” Thourani said.

Thorani told Blankenship that he performs this type of procedure hundreds of times each year.

He said the calcium buildup in the leaflets of Howard’s failing valve would hold the new valve in place and it would work instantly.

Thorani said the procedure would take a little more than an hour and Howard would most likely go home the next day.

Howard’s medical team wants to encourage everyone to listen to your body no matter your age if something feels off, get checked out, especially in minority communities.

“Your primary care physician could be a good place to start. Oftentimes that will result in an echocardiogram and after they had a run on a physical exam. And once that echocardiogram is done, we may be able to identify the problem and then referred to a specialist,” Thorani said.

“We talk about this that a lot of our national meetings are the underrepresentation of minorities because of your heart disease. We’ve noticed that less than 2% to 3% of people who get either valve surgery, open surgery or catheter or surgery that have or procedure or minorities,” said Dr. Pradeep Yadav, cardiothoracic surgeon.

As for Howard, he told Blankenship that he was ready.

“I’m going to come out of this. I’ll be sore from the operation, but I’m going to feel like a new man,” Howard said.

“Brother, you’re going to be just fine. I love you and appreciate your time taking the time to get the message out to people,” Blankenship told Howard.

WEB EXTRA: Fred Blankenship talks to Clark Howard about upcoming surgery for heart defect

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