Mick Jagger, the 75-year-old front man for the Rolling Stones, underwent heart surgery about a month ago. But you’d never know it from this video:
Part of his speedy recovery is due to the fact that Mr. Jagger underwent a new type of heart valve surgery called TAVR (or Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement). This is a minimally invasive procedure whereby the aortic valve (the one way door that controls blood flow from the heart to the body) is replaced without cutting through the breast bone or putting a patient on a heart-lung machine. This 2 minute video illustrates what happens during TAVR:
But the other reason Mick can bust a move after a very short recovery period is because he was otherwise healthy before going into the procedure. Jagger eats a healthy diet, jogs up to eight miles a day, and participates in activities like cycling, yoga and meditation.
Although we know what procedure he had, the details of his underlying valve problem have not been released. However, given his age, the most likely diagnosis was aortic stenosis, a progressive narrowing of the aortic valve which causes a progressive restriction in the ability of blood to get out of the heart to the rest of the body. At some point the narrowing becomes so severe that the blood flow restriction begins to limit people’s ability to exert themselves – an obvious issue for an active man like Mr. Jagger. The TAVR video above illustrates the procedure being used to correct aortic stenosis.
Aortic stenosis becomes more common as people get older. Sometimes a congenital defect in the valve makes that degeneration happen faster. But, in some sense, it’s amazing that even a normal aortic valve doesn’t give out when we’re five. If you think about it, that valve opens and closes with every heartbeat. 60 or more times per minute. 60 minutes per hour. 24 hours per day. 7 days per week. 52 weeks per year. For potentially over a hundred years! If you opened and closed your front door 60 times per minute, it would probably fly off its hinges in 3 months!
Aortic stenosis is a mechanical problem that cannot be fixed with drugs. But high cholesterol, smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes, the same lifestyle factors that drive heart disease in general, seem to accelerate that mechanical degeneration. So controlling those risk factors may help keep our valves in better shape in addition to helping keep our arteries clean.
So what can we learn from Mr. Jagger? Maintaining a healthy lifestyle helps you be more resilient in general – so you can bounce back faster from any health setback. And even at 75, eating well, staying physically active and pursuing activities you enjoy can keep you as energetic and engaged as someone decades younger.