Hiking Through Life After TAVR

By: Julie Devereux

December 08, 2022

Senior man hiking

Renown Health patient, Alden Nash, hiking Death Valley National Park just three months after a Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement.

Alden Nash isn’t your average 80-year-old. For much of his life, he could be found outdoors enjoying nature and hiking some of the west coast’s highest elevations. A husband and father of two, Alden turned his passion into a career as a Yellowstone park ranger in 1965. Alden believes his passion for the outdoors is responsible for his many years of health – until the unavoidable happened.

The Hardest Climb

The number one doctor recommendation for a healthy heart – lead a healthy, active lifestyle. Any cardiologist would be thrilled to have Alden as a patient due to his robust physical activity regimen. “Don’t have a TV set or a lounge chair in your house and you’re all set,” said Alden when asked how he has remained so fit throughout his senior years. Unfortunately, many other factors come into play when it comes to heart health, one of which is the reason we are telling Alden’s story today.

Familial history - it’s a hot topic in the world of medicine. Understanding your genetic risk factors can help care providers develop updated care plans based on your results. Alden’s family has a long history of high cholesterol, which he avoided for much of his life by staying active. This combined with his age resulted in his first heart attack in December 2021. Doctors later determined that Alden was suffering from a type of heart valve disease known as aortic valve stenosis. Aortic stenosis is the narrowing of your aortic valve opening that impedes normal blood flow. Over time, the leaflets of your aortic valve become stiff, reducing their ability to fully open and close. When the leaflets don’t fully open, your heart must work harder to push blood through the aortic valve of your body. Eventually, your heart gets weaker, increasing the risk of heart failure.

People who are most at risk for aortic stenosis include those who have had certain heart conditions present at birth, have chronic kidney disease or have heart disease risk factors such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure. However, generally, aortic stenosis is a degenerative process of aging with no modifiable risk factors. The incidence of aortic stenosis increases rapidly with age and is very common above the age of 80 – with 1/10 having the condition and 1/50 with a problem severe enough to warrant surgery. When symptoms are present, the disease can be rapidly disabling or even deadly, often progressing over several months unless treated. 

Cardiovascular Support Group

Cardiovascular Support Group

We know managing a diagnosis of heart failure can be overwhelming for patients and loved ones. That’s why we provide support services and resources to guide you every step of the way. It begins in the hospital where patients receive heart failure education and continues after discharge through our outpatient Heart Failure Program. Patients receive specialized care by our dedicated team of heart failure specialists that includes heart failure nurse navigators, clinical coordinators and highly trained cardiologists. In addition, Renown Health offers a free monthly Cardiovascular Support Group, open to patients and their families. 
Dr. Shining Sun, Renown Cardiology

Conquering the Mountain

Renown Health’s Structural Heart Disease team treats patients with progressive and complex structural heart disease, combining the latest procedures and clinical research to give patients the best available options. Recognizing that every patient is different, our exclusive team of experts works together to accurately diagnose structural diseases and encourage participants to be involved in their care plan decision-making process.

There are various treatment options for aortic stenosis, including medication or even open-heart surgery. However, some participants are eligible for a less invasive procedure called Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR). This procedure allows a new valve to be inserted within your diseased aortic valve while your heart is still beating. “Before the procedure, my life expectancy following my heart attack was maybe two years. Now, with TAVR, I’m going to live forever!” said Alden with a smile.

Benjamin Ebner, MD, the interventional cardiologist who performed Alden’s procedure, and the Renown Structural Heart Team, have clocked hundreds of hours to ensure they have the training and expertise to perform TAVR, enhancing the quality of life for many patients just like Alden. “Compared to open heart surgery, TAVR has the advantage of being minimally invasive, meaning the procedure can often be safer and offer a faster recovery time.” said Dr. Ebner. The average time required to perform TAVR is one to two hours versus four hours for open heart surgery. Dr. Ebner added that most TAVR patients are discharged from the hospital and feel like their old self within 24 hours of the operation.

Oh, The Places You’ll Go

Knowing TAVR would give him the opportunity to get back into the wilderness was more than enough for Alden to agree to the procedure. And he did just that! Three months following the valve replacement, Alden was hiking the Cottonwood Mountains in Death Valley National Park and continues to partake in daily miles-long walks around the beautiful city of Bishop with his wife.

When not walking or hiking to his next destination, Alden can also be seen driving around in his bright red Toyota Tundra, proudly sporting a personalized ONETAVR license plate. Making the drive up to Reno every few months to see his team of cardiologists, Alden considers himself a “huge advocate for the TAVR procedure and the gang at Renown.”

ONETAVR license plate

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